Big Data Is Neither An Atomic Bomb Nor A Holy Grail

Albert-László Barabási, a physicist and well-known expert in network analysis, published last week an op-ed calling for his fellow scientists to spearhead “the ethical use of big data.” Barabási accuses the NSA of breaking “the traditional model governing the bond between science and society” and argues that big data is like other dual-use “breakthrough technologies” such as atomic energy and genetic engineering. “Powered by the right type of big data, data mining is a weapon,” he says. “It can be just as harmful, with long-term toxicity, as an atomic bomb.”
Drawing an analogy with the established model of nuclear nonproliferation, Barabási argues that “science can counteract spying overreach by developing tools and technologies” that lock in the principles of data ownership (control of personal data by the individual) and safe passage (protection of data transmission).

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