According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the amount of data created in 2012 reached a whopping 2.8 zettabytes — that’s 2.8 trillion gigabytes — and that number is predicted to double by 2015. Most of it is made by individuals as they go through their daily interactions, and consequently, as tracking and storing of that data improves, analysts are able to learn even more about those people. All of this is leading to a day when, according to computer scientist Arvind Narayanan, it will be “algorithmically impossible” to be truly anonymous.
What’s the Big Idea?
This news shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who uses social media: Facebook alone “stores around 111 megabytes of photos and videos for each of its users, who now number more than a billion.” However, it’s not just data produced through computers that’s being tracked. Marketers, for one, are now combining online and offline data sets to help target potential customers more precisely. Any “anonymization” done on these sets is becoming less effective as the data becomes more detailed. Recent research has demonstrated that four location points are all that’s needed to identify many individuals, and that it may even be possible to predict where those people will be in the future.
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