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Is Data Mining Intrusive or Helpful? You decide.

You’re at the store, shopping for something to wear for your night out. You’re buying a CD to listen to on your way to work. You’re going to do some yard work, and you need to buy some mulch and top soil.  Regardless of what you’re buying, you must go to the check out, and pay the clerk or sales associate.  As they’re giving you your total, a clothing store might ask you for your e-mail address and phone number, with area code.  The e-mail address is for special offers, but what is the phone number for?  At the grocery store, or at Wal-Mart, you might be asked for your zip code.  It seems simple enough, just a simple question, and we answer.  The stores asking for your zip code, or phone number with area code, are using that information for something called data mining.  Data mining is the process of extracting patterns from date.  As more data are gathered, the better the company can figure out what it’s consumers are buying.  How this works is by asking for your area code or zip code, they will know where people are buying certain things.  The easiest example I can give to you is this: people from the zip code of someone up north may still be buying coats in April, yet people down south are getting ready for summer with flip flops and shorts.  Data mining can help companies to do better by knowing what their consumers are purchasing and where.  However, data mining isn’t always used for marketing, and that’s where the line gets a little fuzzy.  The government is starting to use data mining for national security and law enforcement purposes.   As a matter of fact, the Total Information Awareness Program, specifically, has raised privacy concerns.  The Total Information Awareness Program would be achieved by developing an enormous computer database.  This database would essentially store all of the personal information of every single United States citizen, including credit card records, phone records, medical records, social network analysis, personal emails, and anything else that they think they should be able to see.  The scariest part of all of this is that they wouldn’t even need a search warrant.  What they would do with this information is analyze it, piece by piece, to ensure that there is no suspicious activity performed by any individual, in hopes to lower crime rates.  The program has already been established, and is sounding like a good idea for those worried about terrorism.  I, for one, think it’s a great idea for marketing, but as for taking all of our personal information, not so much a good idea.  What do you think?