From the Great Minds Think Alike Files: On Big Data Effectiveness

BigData_cartoon“More data does not necessarily mean better information… Of course, we need organizations like the CIA, the NSA, the NRO and all the rest. Intelligence is a vital component of national security, and can be invaluable in both wartime and peacetime. But it is just one security tool among many, and there are significant costs and limitations. We’ve just learned from the recently leaked ‘black budget’ that we’re spending $52 billion annually on national intelligence. We need to take a serious look at what kind of value we’re getting for our money, and whether it’s worth it”–Bruce Schneier, September 11, 2013

“The NSA scandal is no longer about privacy, or a particular violation of constitutional or legislative obligations. The American body politic is suffering a severe case of auto-immune disease: our defense system is attacking other critical systems of our body…  how much of what we have is really necessary and effective, and how much is bureaucratic bloat resulting in the all-to-familiar dynamics of organizational self-aggrandizement and expansionism?”–Yochai Benkler, September 13, 2013

“Most of the discussion around the revelations about the data collection activities of the NSA has been about the threat to our civil rights and the potential damage abroad to U.S. political and business interests. Relatively little has been said, however, about the wisdom of collecting all phone call records and lots of other data in the fight against terrorism or other threats to the United States. Faith in the power (especially the predictive power) of more data is of course a central tenet of the religion of big data and it looks like the NSA has been a willing convert.

…if you want to believe that some success in a specific, narrow task indicates you can predict the future everywhere else, you proceed to collect all the data you can collect because you assume eventually it will tell you whatever you want to know and even what you don’t know that you don’t know.

…President Obama said last Friday that “one of the things that we’re going to have to discuss and debate is how… we [are] striking this balance between the need to keep the American people safe and our concerns about privacy, because there are some trade-offs involved.” I believe we need first to debate the incremental benefit, if any, of collecting more data and the relative merits of the NSA’s big data programs vs. other ways of finding needles in a haystack and going after them”–Gil Press, June 12, 2013