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Big Data on the silver screen

Queen’s University surveillance expert David Lyon hosts screening of Citizenfour.

Next up...
Big Data, Cyber Security and Healthcare
Denise Anthony, Dartmouth College
Tuesday, Feb. 7
School of Medicine, 6:30 pm

After a successful start, Big Data 175 continues with a showing of Citizenfour at the Screening Room in Kingston. The film – which records a reporter and documentarian travelling to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden – won an Academy Award in 2015.

The Big Data events are part of the Queen’s University 175th anniversary celebrations – a year-long exploration into the pros and cons of Big Data in fields such as health care, marketing and national security.

Big Data is large amounts of data that can be used to spot business trends, prevent diseases and combat crime, among other uses. These data sets are so large that traditional data processing applications are inadequate to deal with them.

 “This is an excellent movie with absolutely unique footage,” says David Lyon (Surveillance Studies Centre). “The audience will be captivated from the very first scene. It’s compelling.”

In January 2013, American documentary film director Laura Poitras received an encrypted email from a stranger calling himself Citizenfour. In it he offered inside information about the illegal wiretapping practices of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies. In June of the same year, she travelled to Hong Kong for the first meeting with the stranger, Edward Snowden. She was accompanied by journalist Glenn Greenwald and Guardian reporter Ewen MacAskill.

“Edward Snowden was not a conventional whistleblower but, better, a truth teller,” says Dr. Lyon. “He exposed Big Data being used in unique and, he argued, illegal ways.”

Dr. Lyon will introduce the movie and host a question and answer period following the film.

The Big Data series continues on Tuesday, February 7 with Big Data, Cyber Security and Healthcare public lecture presented by Denise Anthony from Dartmouth College. The event will be held in the School of Medicine Building, Room 132A starting at 6:30 pm and preceded by a reception at 5:30 pm.

“It’s energizing to meet with people from all over Queen’s and realize we have a common goal of presenting Big Data to the public,” says Dr. Lyon. “We are exploring what’s being done with Big Data on campus, and arguing about the pros and cons of Big Data in fields from healthcare to marketing to national security and beyond.”

The film is being presented at the Screening Room Monday, January 16 at 6:45 pm. For more information, including up-to-date information on presentations and topics, visit the BD175 website.