Big Brother, Big Data and you

Data analytics is nothing new, with all kinds of organisations around the world trying to join-the-dots of all the data they hold and the swathes of data available online, much of it being published by individuals with little thought to the full range of people who might be trawling through cyberspace for nuggets of relevant information.get_image.aspx

Yesterday’s Observer and today’s Metro lead with the story about Raytheon, the world’s fifth largest defence contractor, and a product currently being developed that can ‘gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.’

As we have warned before, privacy as we know it is being slowly eroded and it’s not just our friends that are looking at what we share.

A wide range of companies are trying to develop tools that capture data online and analyse it in difference ways, exploiting the growing amount of information we share online and the wider opportunities to track us. If the only barrier is the amount of computing power at your disposal, clearly Governments have the potential to use these tools to profile and analyse their populations in ways never before possible.

This kind of tool joins the dots of our online lives, exploiting data for whatever purpose the user wants. The best way to protect yourself is to control the data you share, but Governments around the world need to be clear with their citizens how they are using these kinds of tools and if they are trying to search for criminals before they have committed a crime.

With so much of this data collecting, mining and analysis being done by private companies and governments around the world looking to exploit cyberspace as a means of control and surveillance, controlling these kinds of technologies is the greatest challenge to civil liberties and digital freedom of our age.

Incidentally, this kind of issue is exactly why Big Brother Watch was founded – can you support our work?