Big Data is more than a collection of technologies or a revolution in measurement and prediction. It has become a philosophy; an ideological regime that determines how decisions are made, and who makes them. It gives legitimacy to a new form of social and political control that takes the digital traces of our existence and then finds ways to use them to sort and manage populations. Big Data is part of a long and pervasive historical legacy of scientific oppression, aggressive public policy, and the most influential political and economic institution that has shaped and continues to shape this country’s economy: chattel slavery. Algorithms and other data technologies are the engines that facilitate the ongoing evolution of chattel slavery into the Prison Industrial Complex, justify the militarization of schoolyards and borders alike, and continued the expansion of contemporary practices of peonage.
This talk serves as a call to action to reject the concentration of Big Data in the hands of a few, to challenge the structures that allow data to be wielded as a weapon of immense political influence. To abolish Big Data would mean to put data in the hands of people who need it the most.