Thus far, the people who seem to be making the most effective use of "Big Data" – that rich stream of information we're sharing online – are advertisers. A host of Silicon Valley marketing businesses have sprung up in recent years, offering sophisticated algorithms for helping retailers connect with the consumers who are most likely to purchase their products.
Big Data is being leveraged in education, too, to gather classroom-level information on teacher and student performance. These efforts, while they enjoy bipartisan support at the Federal and State levels, have met with mixed reviews from parents and teachers – the data and the tests used to gather it, many say, are a crude representation of educational reality.
But the wealth of data the cloud is gathering on every aspect of our lives is accumulating and increasing in specificity. Every sector of society will be making use of it in one way or another in the coming years. The crucial question is how we can put Big Data to work to address global inequality and improve our overall quality of life.