CryptDB, a project out of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, (CSAIL) may be a solution for this problem. In theory, it would let you glean insights from your data without letting even your own personnel “see” that data at all, said Dr. Sam Madden, CSAIL director, on Friday.

“The goal is to run SQL on encrypted data, you don’t even allow your admin to decrypt any of that data and that’s important in cloud storage, Madden said at an SAP-sponsored event at Hack/reduce in Cambridge, Mass.

This is super interesting work that, if successful, could open a lot of sensitive data to mining. However, it needs to be extensively tested.

One thing that is baked into this product, however, is the assumption that large-scale data mining is good or appropriate. I’m not taking a position that it’s wrong, but note that there isn’t any discussion – that I can find – where journalists are thinking through whether such sensitive information should even be mined in the first place. We (seemingly) are foreclosing this basic and very important question and, in the process, eliding a whole series of important social and normative questions.