Tom Chatfield: The Perils of Big Data

Tom ChatfieldSince we were introduced to the internet a few decades ago, we have increasingly been storing our lives in the so-called “Cloud”. In a fascinating BBC Newsnight Report on the perils of Big Data, Tom Chatfield asks the crucial question: can we keep this data under our own control, when boundless more information is being uploaded daily?

In 2012, a typical day on the internet would see:

  • 144 billion e-mails sent
  • 684,000 items of shared content on Facebook alone
  • 72 hours of video uploaded to Youtube per minute

In short, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past 2 years.

Tom contends that “a database of trivial details, is not a trivial database”. Seemingly minor details about ourselves can in fact be cross-referenced and correlated to startling effect. Spending just 5 minutes on immensely popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, can reveal far more about a person than they realised, as Tom demonstrates using his own name.

Even details as trivial as Facebook “Likes” can be analysed to predict with over 80% accuracy very private details such as ethnicity, religious, political preference, and sexuality.

So with the all the risks, why are people so willing to upload so much of their lives?

Tom suggests that it may simply be naivety, but it’s not too late to change our ways. We can protect our privacy online through:

  • Anonymous browsers, such as Tor.
  • Virtual private networks
  • Encrypting files

“Or you can just stop telling everyone where you’re going, who you’re seeing, and what you’re doing, and shut up instead!”

If you are interested in booking Tom Chatfield for a speaking event, please call Leo von Bülow-Quirk on +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

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