This article is modeled on a panel discussion at the symposium regarding two hypothetical case studies: the first about detection technologies related to facial recognition and Terahertz detection and the second about passenger name recognition information created by airlines to manage travel reservations. Through this conversation, the panelists discuss the relationship of big data collection to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the implications of changing technology on the future of big data collections, and the privacy concerns associated with the increased use of these types of surveillance methods as related to law enforcement.
The author reflects on a symposium panel discussion on “Swimming in the Ocean of Big Data: National Security in the Age of Unlimited Information” that occurred before the Snowden disclosures. He analyzes the panel discussion in context of the time at which it occurred and compares it to what has become known since June 2013. The article then focuses on the path to reform, specifically by focusing attention on the strengths and weaknesses of data collection by both the public and private sectors.
The author explores the origins of “big data” and how the phenomenon was able to spread to a wider audience through parallel technological advances in computer hardware and the open source movement. The article focuses specifically on the progress made by Google related to a series of papers published from 2003 to 2006 that were instrumental in the development of other major tech companies that were able to create provide technical support, making the process of deciphering big data more accessible. The paper then examines how this “democratization” has affected the national security community by providing better intelligence at a lower cost.