In recent years, with advances in data-storage capacity and accessibility, more and more information about us is being captured and analysed by government agencies and private companies. While there is some nervousness about this, the proponents of ‘Big Data’ argue that the benefits outweigh the risks to privacy. But should we question the hype around Big Data? Is it really true that the benefits of Big Data outweigh the dangers? Should we place limits on data collection to protect individual liberties? Even in areas where data is put to benign use, could over-reliance on algorithms impede the process of human judgment? Is it time to recognise the limitations of Big Data and put the stats in their place?


Timandra Harkness is a writer, comedian and radio presenter. She is the resident reporter on BBC Radio 4’s The Human Zoo, and she also presented the Radio 4 documentaries Data, Data Everywhere and The Singularity. She is writing a book on Big Data for Bloomsbury’s Sigma popular science imprint.

Mark Birkin is Professor of Spatial Analysis and Policy and Director of the Consumer Data Research Centre, University of Leeds. He is co-editor of the journal Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, and is currently leading the Leeds University’s ESRC research project into Big Data.

Graeme Tiffany is an independent education consultant with a background in youth and community work. As a part-time PhD student in the philosophy of education, he is researching the role of data systems, their effect on the practice of educators and social workers and implications for democracy.

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