Not “knowledge is power” or “information is power.” If you can’t store it, search it and retrieve it, you’ve got bupkis, friend.

Massive storage is a double-edged sword
And we’ll be forever in sorting it out. Cases in point from the Volokh Conspiracy a legal blog:

  • A gang of bank robbers used text messaging to plan their crimes. The prosecution subpoenaed the content of their text messages from the service provider, who evidently keeps them all. The defense says that’s wrong: text messages are speech and therefore need a warrant, not a subpoena, to access. Are text messages records or speech?
  • A North Carolina judge and candidate for re-election has evidently had a YouTube video depicting him in ethically questionable behavior pulled. Should politicians be able to hide such information from the public?
  • Should the government be able to subpoena Amazon for the customer records of a merchant believed to be evading taxes? The prosecutor, judge and the poster seem to be out of line: surely there are other ways of tracking Internet-derived income – like credit card or PayPal payments to the merchants. Why involve the buyers at all?

The StorageMojo take
It is tempting to think of massive storage as culturally neutral, since it is only storing what people produce. But just as the printing press helped broaden literacy and fueled the scientific revolution of the 17th century massive storage broadens access to information in several ways.

  • As Gordon Bell is showing, we will soon be able to record every waking moment of every person’s life. How should that data be used, and who should use it?
  • Massive storage enables scientific advances that use statistics to tease out the truth. Like Partial Response, Maximum Likelihood (PRML) and those CERN shots, is reality merely probable?
  • The courts will soon twig to the fact that it is cheaper for companies to keep all their electronic data than it is to keep all the paper that has been required for many decades. Highly intelligent search will be required to make sense of it all. “Corporate responsibility” will take on a whole new meaning.

Comments welcome.