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The internet knows you better than you know yourself. Should you be worried?

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In this digitally connected era, all of us produce enormous numbers of data points every day. What we search. How we search it. What we buy, and what we read. What we like and dislike, whom we chose to associate with, and so much more — a steady stream of data that can be quantified, sifted and analyzed en masse with the data from everyone else to reveal patterns previously hidden, sometimes things we’re not even aware of about ourselves.

That data may offer us as a society a better way to truly understand who people really are, a theory that author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz submits for our consideration in his new book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. A former Google data scientist who is also a visiting lecturer at Wharton, Stephens-Davidowitz joined the Knowledge@Wharton Show on Sirius XM channel 111 to talk about what properly analyzed big data can reveal about our political views, our health, our biases and more.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: There’s not much doubt that our digital footprints say a lot about who we are, but I get the sense that people, to a degree, still scoff at the idea that so much can be gleaned from all of this information.

Stephens-Davidowitz: Yes. Some people have this traditional notion of what data is. They think of it like a representative survey: You have clear questions with check boxes that people can answer very clearly. I think they get a little uncomfortable with the wild world of the internet, where data tends to be more unstructured and a little bit different than they’re used to.

Knowledge@Wharton: Does it feel like people still believe they have a higher level of data security than they really do?

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