Why Can Big Data Be Big Trouble for You?

We are now beginning to hear and read more about the term “Big Data”. Another related phrase is “Meta Data”. Should you be interested? The answer is “yes” if you are worried about your personal privacy or want to limit your digital profile.

Both big and meta data relate to information that is stored in huge databases. They are accessible by people who own, rent or lease them. Literally thousands of these files are in existence and in the hands of individuals. Any record about you that is stored can be accessed and joined to any other record. Any interested party can gain new perspectives on who you are and what you are all about.

Many grocery stores, for example, have special “reward cards”. You save a few cents on store-branded items when the clerk or the automatic check-out register creates a record of what you purchased. The people who manage the grocery store routinely gather meta data about what their customers purchase and when. A couple of questions to consider might be: “Are the records of what you purchased confidential and only used by management for legitimate inventory purposes?” or
“Are the bits and bytes collected about what you purchased shared with others (producers, advertisers or government entities) to use for their own purposes?

Additional questions arise. How secure is that information? With whom is the information shared? Are the record(s) of what you purchase combined with what you buy at other stores to draw conclusions about your overall consumer behavior?

Could the products you buy ultimately be compiled and reported to healthcare officials to determine if you get a tax credit or are penalized? The answer is “yes” but linking in-store purchases to your tax bill hasn’t happened yet. It’s just waiting to do so.

We have witnessed an insidious growth of government and regulatory agencies in recent years. People are becoming numb to the idea that others are gathering personal information about them and that it’s being congealing at every level. Couple these basic facts with the idea that the quantity of information being monitored by Internet devices is about to explode. Say good-bye to privacy forever. Soon the “Internet of Things” is coming to us all.

Many people have the impression that they have a right to privacy. They don’t. A few laws in various states exist related to the recording of conversations. The federal government has a few statutes and regulations related to collecting and using information but that’s about it. Can most information, freely given up by you (i.e. location services on your digital devices) be vacuumed up and analyzed by virtually anyone? Of course.

When a large and intrusive entity can classify military veterans and/or evangelical Christians (or Jews and Muslims) who happen to be NRA members as “potential terrorists”, the implications are far reaching. Big data that is amassed and conclusions that can be reached by people who are motivated by false pretenses can cause serious damage to the nation and personal liberty. The stage is set for the entrenchment of Tyranny.

Our current level of personal privacy is about to get worse. Thousands of drones are being made available to law enforcement agencies to be used for observation. The loss of your privacy and mine (i.e. our digital profiles) is destined to become all encompassing. The scary fact is that most people are totally unaware and without a clue.

Data collection is widespread, persistent, and in many cases, being done automatically and surreptitiously. What the “watchers” are able to conclude based upon your meta data is subject to his or her interpretations.

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