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PII masking for privacy-grade machine learning

At Grab, data engineers work with large sets of data on a daily basis. They design and build advanced machine learning models that provide strategic insights using all of the data that flow through the Grab Platform. This enables us to provide a better experience to our users, for example by increasing the supply of drivers in areas where our predictive models indicate a surge in demand in a timely fashion.

Grab has a mature privacy programme that complies with applicable privacy laws and regulations and we use tools to help identify, assess, and appropriately manage our privacy risks. To ensure that our users’ data are well-protected and avoid any human-related errors, we always take extra measures to secure this data.

However, data engineers will still require access to actual production data in order to tune effective machine learning models and ensure the models work as intended in production.

In this article, we will describe how the Grab’s data streaming team (Coban), along with the data platform and user teams, have enforced Personally Identifiable Information (PII) masking on machine learning data streaming pipelines. This ensures that we uphold a high standard and embody a privacy by design culture, while enabling data engineers to refine their models with sanitised production data.

Safer deployment of streaming applications

The Flink framework has gained popularity as a real-time stateful stream processing solution for distributed stream and batch data processing. Flink also provides data distribution, communication, and fault tolerance for distributed computations over data streams. To fully leverage Flink’s features, Coban, Grab’s real-time data platform team, has adopted Flink as part of our service offerings.

In this article, we explore how we ensure that deploying Flink applications remain safe as we incorporate the lessons learned through our journey to continuous delivery.

Evolution of quality at Grab

To achieve our vision of becoming the leading superapp in Southeast Asia, we constantly need to balance development velocity with maintaining the high quality of the Grab app. Like most tech companies, we started out with the traditional software development lifecycle (SDLC) but as our app evolved, we soon noticed several challenges like high feature bugs and production issues.

In this article, we dive deeper into our quality improvement journey that officially began in 2019, the challenges we faced along the way, and where we stand as of 2022.

How OVO determined the right technology stack for their web-based projects

In the current technology landscape, startups are developing rapidly. This usually leads to an increase in the number of engineers in teams, with the goal of increasing the speed of product development and delivery frequency. However, this growth often leads to a diverse selection of technology stacks being used by different teams within the same organisation.

Having different technology stacks within a team could lead to a bigger problem in the future, especially if documentation is not well-maintained. The best course of action is to pick just one technology stack for your projects, but it begs the question, “How do I choose the best technology stack for my projects?”.

One such example is OVO, which is an Indonesian payments, rewards, and financial services platform within Grab. We share our process and analysis to determine the best technology stack that complies with precise standards. By the end of the article, you may also learn to choose the best technology stack for your needs.

Migrating from Role to Attribute-based Access Control

Grab has always regarded security as one of our top priorities; this is especially important for data platform teams. We need to control access to data and resources in order to protect our consumers and ensure compliance with various, continuously evolving security standards.

Additionally, we want to keep the process convenient, simple, and easily scalable for teams. However, as Grab continues to grow, we have more services and resources to manage and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the process frictionless. That’s why we decided to move from Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) for our Kafka Control Plane (KCP).

In this article, you will learn how Grab’s streaming data platform team (Coban) deleted manual role and permission management of hundreds of roles and resources, and reduced operational overhead of requesting or approving permissions to zero by moving from RBAC to ABAC.

Securing GitOps pipelines

This article illustrates how Grab’s real-time data platform team secured GitOps pipelines at scale with our in-house GitOps implementation.

New zoom freezing feature for Geohash plugin

Geohash is an encoding system with a unique identifier for each region on the planet. Therefore, all geohash units can be associated with an individual set of digits and letters.

Geohash is a plugin built by Grab that is available in the Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM) tool, which comes in handy for those who work on precise areas based on geohash units.

Graph service platform

In earlier articles of this series, we covered the importance of graph networks, graph concepts, how graph visualisation makes fraud investigations easier and more effective, and how graphs for fraud detection work. In this article, we elaborate on the need for a graph service platform and how it works.

In the present age, data linkages can generate significant business value. Whether we want to learn about the relationships between users in online social networks, between users and products in e-commerce, or understand credit relationships in financial networks, the capability to understand and analyse large amounts of highly interrelated data is becoming more important to businesses.

As the amount of consumer data grows, the GrabDefence team must continuously enhance fraud detection on mobile devices to proactively identify the presence of fraudulent or malicious users. Even simple financial transactions between users must be monitored for transaction loops and money laundering. To preemptively detect such scenarios, we need a graph service platform to help discover data linkages.

Zero trust with Kafka

Grab’s real-time data platform team, also known as Coban, has been operating large-scale Kafka clusters for all Grab verticals, with a strong focus on ensuring a best-in-class-performance and 99.99% availability.

Security has always been one of Grab’s top priorities and as fraudsters continue to evolve, there is an increased need to continue strengthening the security of our data streaming platform. One of the ways of doing this is to move from a pure network-based access control to state-of-the-art security and zero trust by default.

How KartaCam powers GrabMaps

The foundation for making any map is in imagery, but due to the complexity and dynamism of the real world, it is difficult for companies to collect high-quality, fresh images in an efficient yet low-cost manner. This is the case for Grab’s Geo team as well.

Traditional map-making methods rely on professional-grade cameras that provide high resolution images to collect mapping imagery. These images are rich in content and detail, providing a good snapshot of the real world. However, we see two major challenges with this approach.

The first is high cost. Professional cameras are too expensive to use at scale, especially in an emerging region like Southeast Asia. Apart from high equipment cost, operational cost is also high as local operation teams need professional training before collecting imagery.

The other major challenge, related to the first, is that imagery will not be refreshed in a timely manner because of the high cost and operational effort required. It typically takes months or years before imagery is refreshed, which means maps get outdated easily.

Compared to traditional collection methods, there are more affordable alternatives that some emerging map providers are using, such as crowdsourced collection done with smartphones or other consumer-grade action cameras. This allows more timely imagery refresh at a much lower cost.

Graph for fraud detection

Grab has grown rapidly in the past few years. It has expanded its business from ride hailing to food and grocery delivery, financial services, and more. Fraud detection is challenging in Grab, because new fraud patterns always arise whenever we introduce a new business product. We cannot afford to develop a new model whenever a new fraud pattern appears as it is time consuming and introduces a cold start problem, that is no protection at the early stage. We need a general fraud detection framework to better protect Grab from various unknown fraud risks.

Using mobile sensor data to encourage safer driving

“Telematics”, a cross between the words telecommunications and informatics, was coined in the late 1970s to refer to the use of communication technologies in facilitating exchange of information. In the modern day, such technologies may include cloud platforms, mobile networks, and wireless transmissions (e.g., Bluetooth). Although the initial intention is for a more general scope, telematics is now specifically used to refer to vehicle telematics where details of vehicle movements are tracked for use cases such as driving safety, driver profiling, fleet optimisation, and productivity improvements.

We’ve previously published this article to share how Grab uses telematics to improve driver safety. In this blog post, we dive deeper into how telematics technology is used at Grab to encourage safer driving for our driver and delivery partners.

Automatic rule backtesting with large quantities of data

Analysts need to analyse and simulate a rule on historical data to check the performance and accuracy of the rule. Backtesting enables analysts to run simulations of the rules and manage the results from the rule engine UI.

How we store and process millions of orders daily

In the real world, after a passenger places a GrabFood order from the Grab App, the merchant-partner will prepare the order. A driver-partner will then collect the food and deliver it to the passenger. Have you ever wondered what happens in the backend system? The Grab Order Platform is a distributed system that processes millions of GrabFood or GrabMart orders every day. This post aims to share the journey of how we designed the database solution that powers the order platform.

How we automated FAQ responses at Grab

Knowledge management is often one of the biggest challenges most companies face internally. Teams spend several working hours trying to either inefficiently look for information or constantly asking colleagues about information already documented somewhere. A lot of time is spent on the internal employee communication channels (in our case, Slack) simply trying to figure out answers to repetitive questions. On our journey to automate the responses to these repetitive questions, we needed first to figure out exactly how much time and effort is spent by on-call engineers answering such repetitive questions.

We soon identified that many of the internal engineering tools’ on-call activities involve answering users’ (internal users) questions on various Slack channels. Many of these questions have already been asked or documented on the wiki. These inquiries hinder on-call engineers’ productivity and affect their ability to focus on operational tasks. Once we figured out that on-call employees spend a lot of time answering Slack queries, we decided on a journey to determine the top questions.

We considered smaller groups of teams for this study and found out that:

  • The topmost user queries are “How do I do ABC?” or “Is XYZ broken?”.
  • The second most commonly asked questions revolve around access requests, approvals, or other permissions. The answer to such questions is often URLs to existing documentation.

These findings informed us that we didn’t just need an artificial intelligence (AI) based autoresponder to repetitive questions. We must, in fact, also leverage these channels’ chat histories to identify patterns.

Graph Networks - 10X investigation with Graph Visualisations

Detecting fraud schemes used to require investigations using large amounts and varying types of data that come from many different anti-fraud systems. Investigators then need to combine the different types of data and use statistical methods to uncover suspicious claims, which is time consuming and inefficient in most cases.

We are always looking for ways to improve fraud investigation methods and stay one step ahead of our ever-growing fraudsters. In the introductory blog of this series, we’ve mentioned experimenting with a set of Graph Network technologies, including Graph Visualisation.

In this post, we will introduce our Graph Visualisation Platform and briefly illustrate how it makes fraud investigations easier and more effective.

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