Could Charles Dickens have portended the advent of big data back in 1859? The duality of the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities speaks to both the promise and the peril of big data initiatives — the potential for vast new insights into infinite subject areas and the capability to misuse information for nefarious purposes.
We want to believe that government and private entities are harnessing big data for the public good. This certainly holds true in many areas such as doctors and biologists conducting genomics research with the hope of finding a cure for cancer or government agencies harvesting audio and video files, the web and other sources to uncover terrorist activities. The same can be said about companies that bring together voluminous amounts of information from a variety of sources such as blogs, Facebook®, Twitter® and web logs in order to extend highly customized offers to the consumer, as opposed to the days when we were deluged with information, whether it was germane to us or not.