Sep 30, 2022

What is ‘dark data’? How digital information is quietly sapping energy

Posted by in categories: business, computing, finance, internet, space

Digitalization generated 4 percent of the total greenhouse emissions in 2020.

More than half of the digital data firms generate is collected, processed, and stored for single-use purposes. Often, it is never re-used. This could be your multiple near-identical images held on Google Photos or iCloud, a business’s outdated spreadsheets that will never be used again, or data from internet of things sensors that have no purpose.

This “dark data” is anchored to the real world by the energy it requires. Even data that is stored and never used again takes up space on servers — typically huge banks of computers in warehouses. Those computers and those warehouses all use lots of electricity.


This is a significant energy cost that is hidden in most organizations. Maintaining an effective organizational memory is a challenge, but at what cost to the environment?

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