Culture and Big Data

J Edgar Big DataIn a digital world the big bad wolf isn’t hairy, doesn’t have claws, and doesn’t have fangs. The big bad wolf in the Digital Age, is us- ourselves.

Big data is about us. The collection, storing and coding of what we do, how we do it and a compression of why we do it, with a projection of what we might do as a reference point. If properly analyzed it can be quite enterprising; but Big Data all lumped and clumped together can be quite daunting. Still it’s there, all there, albeit on a Cloud and soon to be added, our medical folders. All of that information… POOF!

American culture has always liked information. President Roosevelt’s New Deal added value, with its issuance of a social security numbers. J.Edgar Hoover, who served under 6 U.S. Presidents (March 23, 1935 – May 2, 1972) mastered in the collection of information and data. And we Baby Boomers were born into it, so we recall applying and receiving those little bluish cards in the mail.

The card came in a #10 business size envelope with your whole government name typed out. It signaled to your parents, indeed to the whole world, that you were “somebody”. And that you could officially be hired to get a real job, something more than a newspaper route!

America’s social security system was a step towards tax collection with the fringe benefit of tracking and collecting information; a little piece at a time, bit by bit.

My social security number has followed me since I was sixteen years old. It came with me as I changed addresses from state to state, changed schools and when I went to college in Minnesota. It stayed with me when I was hired at the 3M World Center and again, when I purchased my first round trip airplane ticket to New Orleans.

When President Reagan fired the U.S. Air Traffic Controllers, I applied for and took the Civil Service Exam, a youthful scab. And again, when I went to work at the country’s leading University in Cambridge, MA.

Come to think of it, before I was issued a passport, I used my social security number for vacations. I used it to travel to Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas, all multiple times. In fact, on one visit to the Bahamas, the authorities detained me and accused me of not being an American citizen. Then my social security number was of no consequence; as they decided to give me an exam on American history, that I subsequently failed. Ironically, they released me, because I did fail, citing that anyone who was actually trying to sneak into the U.S. would have studied and passed the test. Go figure.

So my privacy– what I eat, where I’ve been and who I’ve married, my taxes, my income, my loans and how much debt I’ve incurred, is all there, tucked neatly beside my social security number. It also includes any driving infractions, which I have none. Our privacy was compromised a long time ago. Tracking me, my patterns, that is my behavior has been going on a long time.

I suppose, when I was younger privacy didn’t matter to me. Internet terms like Cookies and Breadcrumbs lull me into a false sense of security. Whimsical, as they always are in fairytales like Hansel and Gretel. But I’ve grown up some and I see the world differently. Things that didn’t matter before, matter now. And things that were once left unnoticed; now cause me to look up at the huge responsibility of a Cloud.

To Be continued…

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Internet, Privacy, Twitter, Women

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