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The Numerati

Who is using our data and why?

What will the Numerati learn about us as they turn us into dizzying combinations of numbers? First they need to find us. Say you’re a potential SUV shopper in the northern suburbs of New York, or a churchgoing, anti-abortion Democrat in Albuquerque. Maybe you’re a Java programmer ready to relocate to Hyderabad, or a jazz-loving, Chianti-sipping Sagittarius looking for snuggles by the fireplace in Stockholm. Heaven help us: maybe you’re eager to strap bombs to your waist and climb onto a bus. Whatever you are—and each of us is a lot of things—companies and governments want to identify and locate you. Consider this: Google grew into a multi-billion-dollar sensation by helping us find the right Web page. How much more valuable will it be, in every conceivable industry, to find the right person? That information is worth fortunes, and the personal data we throw off draws countless paths straight to our door. Even if you hold back your name, it’s a cinch to find you. A Carnegie Mellon University study recently showed that simply by disclosing gender, birth date, and postal zip code, 87 percent of people in the United States could be pinpointed by name. … Back to Article

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