The price of collecting and analyzing massive amounts of information has dropped dramatically over the last decade, creating a new path for discovery in many fields, but the evolution of big data raises big questions that scholars in Virginia hope to address.
From medicine to marketing, from politics to police work, people are buzzing about the potential to learn and grow by collecting and analyzing huge amounts of information. This brave new world of big data also raises ethical questions and concerns about public policy and the law. “What does it mean that it’s really easy and cheap for Facebook and Google to track everything we do?”Siva Vaidhyanathan is Chairman of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. “What does it mean that it’s super easy and cheap for the National Security Agency to track every thing that we do? What does it mean to us as individuals when every hospital and every pharmaceutical company can store and analyze big data that can predict particular needs for medication? Is that going to improve our lives? Is it also going to come with some major costs to us?” To explore those questions, the university will host a conference on April 11th – open to the public -- and will offer a masters degree in big data this fall, with special attention to ethics, law and policy.