The quantity of information in the world is soaring. Merely keeping up with, and storing new information is difficult enough. Analyzing it, to spot patterns and extract useful information, is harder still. Even so, this data deluge has great potential for good—as long as consumers, companies, and governments make the right choices about when to restrict the flow of data, and when to encourage it. Find out more.
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Telescope, due to come on stream in Chile in 2016, will acquire that quantity of data every five days. Such astronomical amounts of information can be found closer to Earth too. Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes—the equivalent of 167 times the books in America's Library of Congress (see article for an explanation of how data are quantified). Facebook, a socialnetworking website, is home to 40 billion