Press Release

Al Jazeera America Explains the Jargon and Demystifies the Meaning of Big Data in the Network's First Graphic Novella


New Thought Provoking, Comic Novella From Cartoonist Josh Neufeld and Reporter Michael Keller

NEW YORK– October 29, 2014 - Big Data powers the modern world.  What do we gain from Big Data? What do we lose?  Al Jazeera America examines the role of technology and the implications of sharing personal information in the network’s first graphic novella, Terms of Service: Understanding Our Role in the World of Big Data.  The new comic novella, available on Al Jazeera America’s website at:,

is a thought provoking, entertaining field guide to help smart people understand how their personal, and often very private, data is collected and used.

Co-produced by well-known cartoonist Josh Neufeld and Al Jazeera America reporter Michael Keller, Terms of Service is an entertaining feature that follows characters “Josh and Michael” as they journey through the challenges of digital privacy and other issues consumers should be aware of in the “brave new world” of technology and Big Data.  The comic attempts to entertain and educate readers while providing a solid foundation for them to begin asking their own questions.

“The media’s coverage of Big Data is often dense, jargon-heavy and difficult to understand,” said Mark Coatney, Senior Vice President, Digital Media, Al Jazeera America. “Keller and Neufeld’s Terms of Service is a fun, graphic way to cut through the noise and boost the signal.”

Between social media profiles, browsing histories, discount programs and new tools controlling our energy use, there’s no escape.  As we put ourselves into our technology through text messages and photos, and use technology to record new information about ourselves such as FitBit data, what are the questions a smart consumer should be asking? What is the tradeoff between giving up personal data and how that data could be used against you? And what are the technologies that might seem invasive today that five years from now will seem quaint?  How do we as technology users keep up with the pace while not letting our data determine who we are?

Topics addressed in the feature include:

●      ABSORBING THE SHOCK: New products and technologies like Gmail are often shocking (it scans your emails for keywords that it uses to show you ads) but then become more normal over time. What are the products and technologies emerging now or just around the corner that will first shock us then possibly become normalized over time?

●      THE UNRAVELING THEORY: Presented by Scott Peppet, professor at University of Colorado Law, is the idea that there’s a tipping point for adoption of even radical new products that collect and analyze our personal data. It states that once enough people decide it’s okay to start revealing personal information then those who don’t want to reveal their information are stigmatized. So, even if you’re a fine driver, if you don’t opt-in to more invasive data collection, you’ll be assumed to be a bad driver because you must be hiding something.

●      WHO GETS TO TELL A STORY ABOUT YOU? Companies that collect and analyze your personal information construct profiles of who they think you are based on this information. More often than not, you never get to see these profiles and yet, these digital doppelgängers are determining not just what ads you see or what discounts you might be offered but whom you should date, what you should pay for auto insurance, or down the road, whether you’re approved for a loan. These profiles may accurately represent you, or maybe not. With many different profiles, as well, how can you keep control over your identity without opting out of technology all together?

●      INTERNET OF THINGS: For the past ten years, the web has gotten very good at tracking something it knows very well — your web browsing history. As Scott Peppet says, “five years from now that will seem quaint because we’ll be tracking you based on all this real-world behavior” such as your FitBit exercise data or your home thermostat data to understand your habits. What are the issues consumers should be aware of as they unwrap these new data trackers that promise to become integral parts of their lives?


Michael Keller is a multimedia journalist at Al Jazeera America covering issues at the intersection of technology and civic life.
His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Newsweek/Daily Beast, and others. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011 and is a research Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter at @mhkeller []

Josh Neufeld is a nonfiction cartoonist living in Brooklyn. His previous works include A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone On the Media, and the ongoing series The Vagabonds. Neufeld was a 2012–2013 Knight-Wallace Fellow in Journalism at the University of Michigan. Follow him on Twitter at @joshneufeld []

About Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America is the new U.S. news channel that provides both domestic and international news for American audiences. It is headquartered in New York City with bureaus in 12 cities across the United States.  Al Jazeera America is available in more than 60 million homes in the U.S. on Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV Channel 347, Dish Network Channel 215, Verizon FiOS Channel 614 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 1219. To find Al Jazeera America in your area, visit

Visit Al Jazeera America online at for the latest updates.You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @AJAM and join the conversation using #AlJazeeraAmerica.


For more information, contact:

Jodi Davis, 212-273-4916,

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