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The anecdotes described at the beginning of Mayer-Schönberger’s big data chapter, about H1N1 and airline prices, really intrigued me this week. Often times in the past, whenever I heard anyone discussing big data, it was typically in terms of it being intrusive or almost oppressive in its omniscience and scope. However, I liked this almost hopeful and positive counterpoint to these other doom and gloom ideas. I’m not denying that big data has the potential to be something intrusive and potentially frightening. However, I do also think it’s important to counterbalance those fears with the positive results of big data, like improving knowledge about public health and saving consumers money, as articulated by Mayer-Schönberger.

In this way, I personally feel that big data is a good thing that should be used in order to promote improvements, like the ones mentioned above. I think this would be especially important in the public health example. I would much rather have my data collected and analyzed than stay off the grid if it meant possibly improving knowledge about a potentially dangerous sickness or even contributing to finding a cure. Granted, this is a personal opinion and I do think that it’s valid to question and be skeptical about big data’s methods and the motivations of the people who control it.