Google does it. Amazon does it. Walmart does it. And, as news reports last week made clear, the United States government does it.
Does what? Uses “big data” analysis of the swelling flood of data that is being generated and stored about virtually every aspect of our lives to identify patterns of behavior and make correlations and predictive assessments.
Amazon uses customer data to give us recommendations based on our previous purchases. Google uses our search data and other information it collects to sell ads and to fuel a host of other services and products.
The National Security Agency, a news article in The Guardian revealed last week, is collecting the phone records of millions of American customers of Verizon — “indiscriminately and in bulk” and “regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing” — under a secret court order. Under another surveillance program called Prism, The Guardian and The Washington Post reported, the agency has been collecting data from e-mails, audio and video chats, photos, documents and logins, from leading Internet companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Apple, to track foreign targets…