In an interview with the tech news site re/code, President Barack Obama talked about the uneasy balance between privacy and protection. Law enforcement, he says, “is expected to stop every plot, every attack.” But that’s hard to do when it can’t follow up on leads because of privacy protections. He says he’s more on the side of “really strong encryption” (read privacy) while being “sympathetic” to law enforcement.
Obama himself is a walking example of the limits of big data and the potential trouble with law enforcement drawing conclusions based on suppositions. Obama carries not only the first name Barack, but also the middle name “Hussein.” Anybody using big data and sophisticated mining algorithms to find out who the President of the United States is would never suspect/select Barack Hussein Obama for the role. That’s because big data works with probabilities based on past events, and until the actual Barack Hussein Obama defied the probabilities by winning the 2008 election, there was no precedent for a president named Hussein. His name would have ruled him out. The computer would have picked the wrong man. That is some strong encryption.