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Religions, Volume 8, Issue 5 (May 2017)
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Cover Story (view full-size image) Anyone making use of a computer or a smartphone, or engaging with an IT system in a hospital or [...] Read more. Anyone making use of a computer or a smartphone, or engaging with an IT system in a hospital or office, is surrendering data. This is routinely retrieved and stored in colossal quantities, generating the phenomenon of ‘big data’. But who controls this data? What uses may legitimately be made of it? ‘Data science’ introduces skills and practices unlike those of any other science: how well are these understood? Are there malign consequences of the ‘data revolution’, and if so what can be done about them? This paper suggests two ways in which religions might address some of the issues raised by big data. First, data scientists and theologians require similar skills for the practice of their art, and might find dialogue mutually beneficial. Second, religious institutions such as Churches might raise public awareness about the issues raised by big data, and might also serve as ‘safe spaces’ for engagement with those issues – for these have profound consequences for us all.