This sample image from Second Spectrum shows the company's data visualizations for the NBA. They crunch game data — past and present — to show live statistics and information during games. Courtesy of Second Spectrum hide caption

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A venture capital firm is using the power of big data to target entrepreneurs before they even create startups. iStockphoto hide caption

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Surrendered handguns are piled in a bin during a gun buyback event in Los Angeles on May 31, 2014. David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

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Many institutions have their archives stored on CDs — but the discs aren't as stable as once thought. There is no average life span for a CD, says preservationist Michele Youket, "because there is no average disc." Sarah Tilotta/NPR hide caption

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A Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Even online privacy advocates acknowledge that keeping personal data out of the hands of third parties is virtually impossible today. Connie Zhou/AP hide caption

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Target Co. estimates that at least 70 million individuals may have had information including their "names, mailing addresses, phone numbers or email addresses" stolen in a recent data breach. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Cell towers are constantly tracking the location of mobile phones. And that data, federal courts have ruled, is not constitutionally protected. Steve Greer/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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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

Mobile apps and devices track a user's health statistics. But those data are sometimes sold and can end up in the hands of employers and insurance companies. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Researchers are increasingly using cloud computing to discover new drugs and medical treatments. Cloud computing is often cheaper and quicker than in-house computing. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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