Privacy / Security

Can privacy exist in a big data world?

The federal government is the biggest data collector in the world, housing increasingly enormous databases on everything from tax records and census information to signals intelligence and scientific research.

Many federal agencies, especially in the defense and intelligence communities, have begun to make use of big data tools and techniques to sift through those gobs of information looking for key insights they might otherwise miss.

In some cases, especially in light of the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance efforts revealed in leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden, big data have generated big privacy concerns in the public. By simply using a government system – or, in the NSA example, even using the Internet or a telephone – users are offering up information that is logged and can be stored indefinitely.

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