Value and meaning come from relationships and context. A physical object, such as a quarter, only holds the value we give it. It has no intrinsic worth. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Google, like Facebook, Microsoft and other Internet companies, is concerned that data requests from U.S. surveillance agencies could ultimately damage its reputation in the U.S. and overseas. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Big Data may not be much to look at, but it can be powerful stuff. For instance, this is what the new National Security Agency (NSA) data center in Bluffdale, Utah, looks like. George Frey/Getty Images hide caption

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The National Security Agency has been plucking data from central servers of large U.S. Internet firms, according to reports, and mining the data for possible security threats. NSA hide caption

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A micrograph of HeLa cells, derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks. Tomasz Szul/Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Getty Images hide caption

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Cell phone communication can be hacked, tapped or otherwise tampered with. A new app aims to change that. iStockphoto hide caption

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Fill out an application for a loan, and your wage history may go places you didn't expect. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Each strand of DNA is written in a simple language composed of four letters: A, T, C and G. Your code is unique and could be used to find you. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Shwetak Patel (foreground), a MacArthur Fellow, recognized that every device in a home has a unique signature that can be used to track energy usage. The data collected by Patel's system showed that digital video recorders were responsible for 11 percent of this home's power use, just one example of The Human Face of Big Data. © Peter Menzel 2012/from The Human Face of Big Data hide caption

itoggle caption © Peter Menzel 2012/from The Human Face of Big Data

Who's collecting information about her? Peggy Turbett /The Plain Dealer /Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Peggy Turbett /The Plain Dealer /Landov

In this photo illustration, the Google logo is seen through a pair of glasses in Glasgow, Scotland. The European Union says a change in Google's privacy policy is a breach of European privacy law. Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images hide caption

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