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Mystery of Big Data's Parallel Universe Brings Fear, and a Thrill

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

Not long ago, a woman in Tacoma, Wash., received a suggestion from Facebook that she "friend" another woman. She didn't know the other woman, but she followed through, as many of us have, innocently laying our cookie-crumb trails through cyberspace, only to get a surprise.

On the other woman's profile page was a wedding picture--of her and the first woman's husband, now exposed for all the cyberworld to see as a bigamist.

And so it goes in the era of what is called Big Data, in which more and more information about our lives--where we shop and what we buy, indeed where we are right now--the economy, the genomes of countless organisms we can't even name yet, galaxies full of stars we haven't counted, traffic jams in Singapore and the weather on Mars tumbles faster and faster through bigger and bigger computers down to everybody's fingertips, which are holding devices with more processing power than the Apollo mission control. Big Data probably knows more about us than we ourselves do, but is there stuff that Big Data itself doesn't know it knows? Big Data is watching us, but who or what is watching Big Data?

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