Role of Big Data

This module provides a roadmap to understanding the way big data is redefining how we gather, store, manage, and apply information. A variety of topics are covered including big data’s role in changing societal organization, privacy and legal issues, and the advantage disadvantages, and ethical implications of the use of big data in planning and decision-making across business and government.

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Resource List

These resources provide a baseline of understanding, but as the strategic environment continues to evolve, new data will become available.


  • Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society: The Council for Big Data, Ethics and Society provides social and cultural perspectives on big data initiatives. The council addresses issues on security, privacy, equality, and access, to help guard against known mistakes and inadequate preparation in the use of big data, through Council public commentary, white papers and direct engagement with data analytics projects.
  • IEEE Computer Society: The IEEE Computer Society strives to advance the theory, design, practice and application of computer and information processing science and technology. IEEE Computer Society offers professional education on a variety of topics including big data. Big data eLearning courses:
  • Data and Civil Rights Conference: Data and Civil Rights is an annual conference that brings together leaders in civil rights, government, industry, and academic research to address how we preserve and strengthen civil rights in the face of data-driven technological change. Conference workshop and breakout session write-ups and primers are provided. Conference details: and

Recent Publications and Journal Articles:

  • The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information: In this study, researchers estimated the world’s technological capacity to store, analyze, and communicate information by tracking analog and digital technologies during a twenty-year period (1986-2007). Implications for necessary storage growth rates based on increased calculation rates are discussed and supporting material is provided.
  • Information Management and Big Data: A Reference Architecture: There has been a significant rise in the number of organizations using big data technologies to interpret and manage their data for use in fact-based decision-making. There are a number of big data technologies and just as many ways to implement and combine systems to manage a data set. This white paper explores big data within the context of Oracle’s Information Management Reference Architecture as well as the background behind big data and how information can be structured into a single information resource.
  • Data Quality Management, Data Usage Experience and Acquisition Intention of Big Data Analytics: In this study, the researchers review key issues and drivers in adopting big data technology by organizations including the acquisition intent and continued use of big data analytics.
  • Big Data and Society Journal: This Open Access peer-reviewed scholarly journal publishes interdisciplinary work principally in the social sciences, humanities, and computing and their intersections with the arts and natural sciences about the implications of big data for societies. The Journal’s key purpose is to provide a space for connecting debates about the emerging field of big data practices and how they are reconfiguring academic, social, industry, business and governmental relations, expertise, methods, concepts and knowledge. Browse Journal articles here:
  • National and Transnational Security Implications of Big Data in the Life Sciences: This report is an evaluation of the drives of big data in the life sciences, possible risks benefits of big data analytics, and existing or needed solutions to address the risks identified. Risks include, but are not limited to, vulnerabilities of datasets to cyber intrusion and design of biological weapons derived from the integration and analysis of big data in the life sciences.
    • Citation: American Association for the Advancement of Science. “National and Transnational Security Implications of Big Data in the Life Sciences”. (2014). Prepared by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. 26 Jun 2017,
  • Big Data Deep Learning: Challenges and Perspectives: As the capacity for data acquisition and storage grows so does the need for harnessing data for meaningful applications. Deep learning, a research area in machine learning and pattern recognition, is one such application avenue. This paper provides an overview of deep learning and highlights current research efforts and challenges and as well as future trends of applying deep learning to big data analysis.
  • Challenges of Big Data Analysis: This article presents an overview of the opportunities and challenges associated with big data, with emphasis on the distinguished features of big data and statistical and computational methods as well as computing architecture to deal with them.
  • Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective: This report examines the nature of current technologies for managing and analyzing Big Data and for preserving privacy, considers how those technologies are evolving, and explains what the technological capabilities and trends imply for the design and enforcement of public policy intended to protect privacy in Big-data contexts.
  • Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?: Big data, artificial intelligence, cybernetics and behavioral economics are transforming the way society is organized. Smart technologies are changing the way we run businesses, governments, and cities and the potential for America to become a ‘data-controlled society.’ This article explores a number of topics including privacy, data manipulation, ‘big-nudging’ and the right to personal data. It also reviews what is means for America’s democratic values to be influenced by big data and artificial intelligence as well as the advantages and disadvantages of big data and artificial intelligence integration. The authors provide a list of fundamental principles to allow humanity to benefit from the digital revolution without causing societal harm.
  • The Big Data Divide: This article extends the notion of a “big data divide” to describe the unequal relationship between those who collect, store, and mine large quantities of data, and those whom data collection targets. It is difficult to anticipate the uses of data that result from large data-mining processes and therefore the types of analysis and targeting that may follow. The author also discusses the potential implications in terms of internet privacy.
  • Ebola: Mapping the Outbreak: Researchers use big data to map the outbreak and predict what is going to happen next.
  • U.S. Mines Personal Health Data to Find the Vulnerable in Emergencies: Personal health data can be used to warn those with severe health issues about current and forecasted weather emergencies. Information about emergency services or directions for emergency preparedness can be disseminated quickly to ensure these vulnerable individuals get the care they need.


  • Big Data Management: This textbook presents an interdisciplinary approach to big data, focusing on the engineering and technology of big data systems as well as administrative aspects of management. Applications of big data in management are offered through a series of real-life case studies.
  • Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think: A survey of big data’s growing effect on business, government, science and medicine. This book covers how big data can provide important developments and innovations in various fields and presents challenges and threats to organizations, culture, and the individual.
  • Application of Big Data for National Security: This book contextualizes the big data concept and how it relates to national security and crime detection and prevention; presents strategic approaches for big data technologies in preventing terrorism and reducing crime; and presents a series of case studies that demonstrate the applicability of big data in national security.
    • Citation: Babak Akhgar, Gregory B. Saathoff, Hamid R. Arabnia, Richard Hill, Andrew Staniforth and Saskia Bayerl. “Application of Big Data for National Security”. 2015. Butterworth Heineman, Waltham, MA. Book available online at:
  • Wired for Innovation: How Information Technology is Reshaping the Economy: A guide for policy makers and economists looking to understand how information technology is transforming the economy and the value of investing in information technology services as data creation and storage continues to increase. The authors argue that businesses who invest in technological innovation are investing in more than just technology, they are also inventing new forms of organizational capital to become digital businesses that improve business practices, production, and employee relations.

Other Resources:

  • Six Big Data Trends to Watch in 2017: This article reviews six anticipated big data trends for 2017. These trends include: movement of data to the cloud, aggregation of digital unstructured and machine IoT data, use of dark data, stronger administration of data security permissions, immediately gratifying analytics, and business evaluations of big data projects.
  • Big Data and the Future of Business: This article focuses on big data’s potential to disrupt the economy. Three policy areas are covered including employment, privacy, and regulation. Potential changes to business, health, and science institutions and the implications for the greater society are also reviewed.
  • Report on Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective: This fact sheet summarizes the 2014 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s report on big data and privacy including policy recommendations.
  • Big Data Will Impact Every Part of Your Life: New computing technologies combined with increased internet speeds has changed the way data is captured, stored and available for use. In this TEDx talk, Dr. Charlie Stryker, talks about how big data has influenced all aspects of our daily lives and ways it is helping doctors diagnose illnesses. Accessed 11 April 2017,
  • What is Big Data and Why Does it Matter?: Donna Green talks about the amount of data we are generating and how to leverage all of that data to solve the world’s biggest problems. This talk touches on proactive management of systems through real-time monitoring and diagnostics using advanced analytics and the industrial internet and the cooperative efforts of data scientists and specialists (engineers, doctors, etc.). Accessed 11 April 2017,
  • Using Big Data to Influence Public Policy: The Wall Street Journal interviews Dan Kaufman, the director of DARPA to discuss the benefits and challenges of using big data to influence public policy. Accessed 13 April 2017.
  • Big Data, Ethical Futures: This articles discusses ways to make social media, digital networks research, and digital data collection more ethical. The author argues that data science and computational social science research, like other social science research (anthropology, sociology, psychology, etc.), is conducted using human subjects and should be subject to the same ethical and review standards.
  • The Four V’s of Big Data: Infographic discussing the four v’s of big data: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity, Accessed 11 April 2017,
  • The Internet of Things and Big Data: Making the Connection: This short blog post discusses the relationship between the Internet of Things (IoT) and the collection of data. Accessed 11 April 2017,
  • The Landscape of Big Data and the Economy: Infographic with statistics showing how big data has impacted the economy. Accessed 11 April 2017,
  • 37 Big Data Case Studies: A summary of 37 studies that used big data to answer important questions in their field. Accessed 13 April 2017,

These materials were developed as an initiative of the Advanced Thinking in Homeland Security (HSx) curriculum at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

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