Skip navigation

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier illuminate in their writings the impact big data will and already has had on our society. They begin their book with an anecdote about Swine Flu (Swine ’09) and demonstrate the ways in which Google was able to pinpoint the areas of infection via big data. I find this power simultaneously comforting and alarming. As evidenced through the story about Google, big data has the ability to provide immense help. Schonberger and Cukier write, “Strikingly, Google’s method does not involve distributing mouth swabs or contacting physicians’ offices. Instead, it is built on “big data.” So, yes, Big Data can do a lot of good. But it can also do a lot of harm. Google’s mass collection of information has, in the view of many, overstepped the bounds of privacy. Advertisements for products that appear on the side of your Google searches are tailored to your individual preferences that Google has amassed based on searches and purchasing history. Thus, where does Google draw the line? When does Big Data become Big Brother?