Prediction, Preemption, Presumption - How Big Data Threatens Big Picture Privacy


Big data’s big utopia was personified towards the end of 2012. Our concern is about big data’s power to enable a dangerous new philosophy of preemption. In this Essay, we focus on the social impact of what we call “preemptive predictions.” Our concern is that big data’s promise of increased efficiency, reliability, utility, profit, and pleasure might be seen as the justification for a fundamental jurisprudential shift from our current ex post facto system of penalties and punishments to ex ante preventative measures that are increasingly being adopted across various sectors of society. It is our contention that big data’s predictive benefits belie an important insight historically represented in the presumption of innocence and associated privacy and due process values—namely, that there is wisdom in setting boundaries around the kinds of assumptions that can and cannot be made about people.

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