“Big Data” is the term for the collection and analysis of our internet footprint. Our online interactions can be quantified, from where we click, what ads we see longest, page interaction, pages clicked before, pages clicked after, the location of the users IP address, how many times hes come to this site, etc. etc. This information is collected through web architecture, separate programs running on the sites, cookies, and is generally freely given by the end user through some sort of user licensing agreement posted by the site itself. This information contributes individual data points that are then connected and utilized by the sites to try and improve the efficacy of their online presence, or to keep an eye on the customer base to identify growing needs / markets.
This information can be used to paint a vivid picture of someones life. For this reason, the government also engages with big data, scooping up metadata and content from most major applications and telecom company, including but not limited to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T. Most of this information is collected by the National Security Agency and is stored and stored at the Utah Data Center, pictured above. This facility boasts a super computer that can operate at 100 petaflops, or 100,000 billion calculations a second, with a storage capacity of one yottabite, or 10^24 bytes of information, and acts as the tool which the NSA uses towards its express goal of collecting it all. For me, this center is at the crux of what Big Data symbolizes: the congregation of information under one roof, and with information comes power, and with power comes corruption and abuse.