"Smile, you are on camera!" is a pretty common sign in some areas like taxi cabs and retail stores. The idea is to alert customers that their activities are being monitored. These signs are not always required, as it is often quite apparent that there is a big camera aimed right at you. For most of us, being "watched" on a CCTV camera is just a part of normal life in a big city. However, this is nothing compared to how activity is being watched in other areas...
Big Data is changing many parts of our lives. One of the biggest areas being how municipalities are gathering information about the city through the use of advanced sensors.....and you may be surprised by all of the ways that they are doing it.
Like anything else, one has to worry about privacy. Like many things that develop trends (ranging from car volume on highways to overall power consumption by home owners), the data tends to be grouped together, so it is not possible to gather data on an individual person. As well, with most of our lives being on the Internet anyways (Reminder: post on FB about your leg cramp while running!), most of us have a decreased sense of what is actually private anyways.
As well, this data is being used to provide a better life for many of us. When cities know the actual traffic patterns, they can provide more effective public transit and better roads. As well, sensor data is invaluable for preventing major issues, reducing our environmental footprint and improving our overall safety.
Where the issues lie is that we need to keep a better eye on how this data is being used, and in fact, what is being gathered in the first place. It is great to see cities sharing with the public what they are doing, why they are doing it and how it is helping....disclosure tends to reduce people's concerns somewhat.
Based on how I make a living, it is obviously in my best interest to see Big Data sensor data being further deployed. However, like most people, we want to see it be done in a responsible manner – one that balances the benefits vs. the possible loss of privacy for all of us.