Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Andrew Feffer

Second Advisor

Lori Marso




big data, surveillance, data-mining, NSA


Personal data represents a commodity of increasing interest to both the United States government and large corporations. While their reasons differ, the two powerful entities have worked together to radically expand the domestic surveillance activities in the U.S. As the government surreptitiously expanded its domestic surveillance under the guise of its “war on terror,” it quickly realized that the advanced technology and access to personal data held by many large corporations presented a valuable source of surveillance information. These companies, in turn, similarly saw an opportunity for revenue in both the sale of the data and large governmental contracts to provide the technology and infrastructure to support the surveillance activities. Thus, a disturbing yet symbiotic partnership has developed, and with it a political environment that thwarts efforts to disclose and provide appropriate regulation to supervise these activities. All of this leaves the civilian population at an increased risk—a direct result of an industry that treats the individual as both a product and a consumer. In turn, the transition from personal information to profitable information has created a myriad of social and political implications that have not yet been fully analyzed or understood. Only the future will tell how these developments will ultimately play out, whether in favor of corporate-government interests, or the protection of civil liberties. This is a critical decision for the future of the United States, and the overarching issues surrounding privacy in the digital age have not been adequately addressed by either the legislative or judicial branches of government. As technological developments continue to advance, and the demand for, and value of, personal data continues to increase, the insistence that these issues be addressed will seemingly need to come from American citizens, as their right to privacy is continually being eroded. One can only hope that this insistence is not brought about by catastrophic circumstances.