In 2013, Edward Snowden was an IT systems expert working under contract for the National Security Agency when he traveled to Hong Kong to provide three journalists with thousands of top-secret documents about U.S. intelligence agencies' surveillance of American citizens.
Today's Internet users have become accustomed to stories of hacking, identity theft and cyberattacks, but there was a time when the freedom and anonymity of the Web were new, and no one was sure what rules — if any — applied to its use.
Whether it's logs of phone calls or GPS data, commentator Geoff Nunberg says it still says a lot about who you are: "Tell me where you've been and who you've been talking to, and I'll tell you about your politics, your health, your sexual orientation, your finances," he says.
Shane Harris, an author and journalist who covers intelligence, surveillance and cybersecurity for a number of publications, says that the revelations about the NSA from Edward Snowden are nothing new, and that such programs have a significant recent history in the United States.
"Big Data" had just as much to do with President Obama's victory as phrases like "Etch A Sketch" and "47 percent," says linguist Geoff Nunberg. Big Data is also behind anxieties about intrusions on our privacy, whether from the government's anti-terrorist data sweeps or the ads that track us on the Web.