The Big Data picture – just how anonymous are “anonymous” records?

By Paul Ducklin

There are things that obviously aren’t big data, like the modest collection of pictures you took of your cat until you snapped one that made a decent computer wallpaper image.

And there are things that obviously are big data, like the giant database of Wi-Fi access points from Google’s StreetView cars that it uses to aid and abet its geolocation services.

Of course, even your cat pictures – the ones that were captured with a single short press of the BURST option on your new iPhone – probably take up several times more storage than your first computer had in total.

But they fail to make the cut as “big data” not only because they’re small by modern standards, but also because you can’t dissect, compare and contrast them to look for patterns in the whole cat world, and from that to draw inferences about one particular cat in the database.

Now, if you had pictures of 1,000,000 different cats, organised by location, that would be big data.

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