How Big Data Analytics can impact and possibly enhance the security of individuals and society
On 4-5 July 2016 the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) organized the workshop on “Using big data analytics to reinforce security.” The workshop took place at the Palais des Nations, Geneva and was attended by high level experts in this area from governmental institutions, law enforcement agencies, international organizations, the private sector and the academia. Amongst others, representatives from the International Criminal Court, Europol, the World Bank, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, the International Organization for Migration, the USA Federal Bureau of Investigation, CERN, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, France, and Switzerland were present at the workshop. In the past decade, the variety, volume and velocity at which data is generated have increased remarkably.
Today, an extremely large quantity of information is available in real time from different sources - such as social media, cloud-sharing, mobile applications etc. Information is also collected and stored in a variety of databases covering economics, medical and social statistics from around the world. This phenomenon is being referred to as big data. Big data analytics, on the other hand, is the process of examining these large data sets containing a variety of data types. Increased computational power along with the advancement and diversification of data analysis has enabled experts to visualise the huge amount of data in innovative ways and has led to the revelation of useful patterns that could have otherwise remained hidden.
Big data analytics is a rapidly growing field with diverse applications. However, the true potential of using big data analytics in the area of national and international security has remained unexplored. Considering that big data analytics can significantly improve decision making, planning, monitoring and prevention, it is important to make coordinated efforts to understand how big data analytics can impact and possibly enhance the security of individuals and society.
With the above stated objective in mind, the workshop organized by UNICRI brought together the experts from the fields of big data analytics, security and policy-making and provided them a platform to have detailed discussions. The main security areas covered during the workshop included crime and policing; terrorism; supply chain security; human migration and illicit trafficking; and risks related to CBRN materials.
The workshop led to the identification of specific security needs that could be addressed through the use of available knowledge and expertise in big data analytics. It also provided an understanding of the challenges that would have to be overcome for facilitating this process. In addition, it allowed the participants to appreciate the range of possibilities where big data analytics could be leveraged to significantly improve the prevention of and response to security concerns.
As a follow-up to the workshop, UNICRI will facilitate the development of future scenarios and well-defined action plans. These will be used to showcase how big data analytics can help in reinforcing security and in addressing specific needs of the Member States of the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders, in cooperation with a wide and strong network of partners from the public and the private sector.