In a world that is increasingly under surveillance and digital control, Donald Patterson, professor of computer science, answers the question, Should We Hide from Big Data? in a free public lecture at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13, at University Club, 1332 Santa Barbara St.

Tickets aren’t required but the limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call 565-6051.

Sponsored by the Westmont Foundation, the talk is part of Westmont Downtown: Conversations about Things that Matter.

“An enormous amount of data gets collected, so big data isn’t just a benign repository of information,” Patterson said. “It becomes the basis for making decisions and monitoring and assessing individuals and groups.

“People with agendas choose which data is worth saving, which colors the pictures they subsequently form about our world.”

Patterson will walk through several examples of ways of thinking about surveillance and control. He’ll present ways in which people on the cutting edge of technology have responded to protest and protect their privacy and yet practically still participate in the modern world.

Finally, he’ll discuss when, if ever, it’s OK to lie to the databases that are trying to form a digital portrait of you.

“I would like the audience to leave with new ways to think about data collection, and new ideas about what the threats and opportunities are, and to learn about how computer scientists think about big data and why,” he said.

Patterson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cornell University before serving as a naval operations officer for four years. He earned a doctorate from the University of Washington and received grants and won awards for articles on collapse informatics and abstract object usage.

— Scott Craig for Westmont College.