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Interview with Mark Testoni, President and Chief Executive of SAP National Security Services

By Debra Kaufman

Testoni 300At the 2017 HPA Tech Retreat, Mark Testoni, president and chief executive of SAP National Securities Services, which sells, implements, supports and develops software for cybersecurity, spoke on my panel on artificial intelligence/machine learning. His company’s client base is government agencies, the U.S. Department of Defense, law enforcement, Wall Street and financial institutions. I sat down with Testoni for a more in-depth talk about the topic.

Kaufman: Tell me about your work for government agencies.

Testoni: Because we’re all U.S. citizens and have security clearances and know all the regulations, we sell to a very small market of people in the government. We help track threats relevant to big data and help the mission side of intelligence and defense. It’s actually many of the same things this industry is grappling with, with regard to big data.

Intelligence or law enforcement gather records, get warrants, have visual surveillance. We try to help them take those traditional methods and new information like open-source intelligence and blend it together to get a bigger picture of what’s going on. Big data can help sift through petabytes of video and social media data, and then convert it to something that’s actionable.

Kaufman: How could this impact the film/TV industry?

Testoni:  On Homeland, Carrie puts pictures and information written on paper on a wall, hanging from strings. She’s doing on the wall what we’re trying to help her do, but not just one or two things at a time, but many. The whole world is a big data problem. With artificial intelligence, can machines do the editing based on audio direction from the editor? It’ll be fascinating to see how this rolls out. Our customer base picks up lots of things via sensors. Rules are emerging to determine how they process it and turn it rapidly into information.

Kaufman: What are the pitfalls of AI? What should we worry about?

Testoni: Do you know how with stock market funds, in the little print, it says, “past results are not predictive of future performance”? The outcome is only as good as the data. Is there an opportunity for bad guys to get in there and manipulate it? Is it 100 percent foolproof? Privacy is going to be a big issue. In fact, it’s the one-year anniversary of Apple versus the FBI on that privacy issue.

The basis of that issue is that information is being collected and held by companies. Who owns that data? Is a photo of me in transit in a public area considered public or private? What about a photo of my house captured by a surveillance camera – public or private? Can the government access it?

There was a murder committed in Bentonville, Arkansas and the government asked for the data from the home’s Amazon Alexa, as well as information on water and heat use, as part of the discovery process. We have to have a public conversation about all this and legislate so companies and the government can operate in this new world.

Kaufman: There are already intellectual property and privacy issues playing out in the digital entertainment business. What’s your perspective on them?

Testoni: There used to be a finite number of people who could produce content, now that’s really changed and you have all this information and video. In general, everyone is collecting the information, from YouTube to every other platform. Under what circumstances can that information be sold or traded?  And it can be hacked. All those data stores are vulnerable.

From the viewpoint of the customer, when you download an app, what are you saying yes to? In Pokémon, people didn’t realize they were giving up their list of contacts. As consumers, we have to be smart. Companies that are getting hacked, not only are getting their intellectual property hacked but also their users.

Kaufman: Yet you say that, in general, AI will be good for us.

Testoni: I was at the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles to register my Jeep Wrangler, and while I’m waiting, I’m listening to an 80-year old man argue with the technician over what letters are on the vision test he was trying to pass. I want self-driving cars. The key is where the privacy line will be drawn. If I’m the object of a criminal investigation, how much of this data is discoverable? And are the companies holding it bound to turn it over or not?

Your industry is a communication industry as well as an entertainment industry, so you’re constantly looking for feedback. A movie or TV show ten years from now will probably be VR where AI will play a role. If you want a movie with different endings or where the user affects the outcome, that’s all AI.

Mark Testoni has been President and Chief Executive of SAP National Security Services since 2011 with responsibility for management, sales, consulting, product support, and go-to-market strategy for SAP’s most secure and sensitive U.S. government markets, customers and partners.


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