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Research Report

BIG DATA: A Twenty-First Century Arms Race

Els De Busser
Erica J. Briscoe
Benjamin C. Dean
Tatiana Tropina
Miren B. Aparicio
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2017
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 90
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)
    Timothy D. Adams

    Today’s threat environment is more fast-paced and complex than ever before. Around the globe, increasingly sophisticated state and non-state actors are engaged in harming the political and economic fabric of the United States and its allies and partners. Adversaries are stepping up their use of cyber and other technologies in their attacks. Non-state actors, such as transnational organized criminals, exploit regulatory and supervisory gaps in the global financial architecture to perpetrate money laundering and fraud despite stepped up international efforts to counter them. Terrorist groups leverage cheap, easily assessable technologies to recruit adherents and plan their assaults. Needless to say,...

  2. (pp. 5-16)
    Els De Busser

    Law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to comply with specific legal frameworks when gathering and processing personal data for the purposes of criminal investigations and national security. Private companies need to comply with specific legal frameworks when gathering and processing personal data for the purpose of commercial activities.

    Both law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as multinational private companies, engage in cross-border data gathering. This means that two countries’ legal frameworks could be applicable to their activities: one in the territory where the data are gathered and another in the territory where the data are processed—for example, personal...

  3. (pp. 17-28)
    Erica J. Briscoe

    A critical element in any institution is the existence of a trusting environment, which allows people to interact with one another without fear of adverse effects either on their professional or personal lives. Preservation of trust, however, is challenging. The rising number of threats to cybersecurity, fueled by an increasing reliance on data-driven devices, is coupled with a growing unease about the power that overseers tasked with ensuring that security (both corporate and government) possess as a result of their access. When taken in context with several high-profile cases of espionage, intellectual property (IP) theft, and workplace violence, both the...

  4. (pp. 29-40)
    Benjamin C. Dean

    A confluence of trends around digital technologies, data collection, and data analysis over the past two decades has brought new opportunities and challenges to public and private organizations alike. Digital technologies and data analysis can and are increasingly used to identify “bad actors” so as to detect and deter or prevent fraud, money laundering, bribery, terrorism, regulatory non-compliance, and other criminal activities. A variety of techniques are now used including profiling, metadata collection, network analysis, data fusion, and predictive analytics. While powerful when used properly, data and data analysis are still subject to statistical and economic limitations. Organizations require people...

  5. (pp. 41-52)
    Tatiana Tropina

    The relatively new phenomenon of big data has rapidly become both a promise and a challenge. Big data solutions are praised by some as technologies that will change the world, criticized by others as threats to privacy, acclaimed to be a silver bullet to myriad issues, called a “buzzword tsunami,” and used as a source of inspiration for utopian and dystopian scenarios; big data has quickly become central to many policy debates. Governments, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector are currently trying to grasp the benefits of the huge amounts of data generated and processed daily anxd exploring how...

  6. (pp. 53-79)
    Miren B. Aparicio

    Financial crime legislation seeks to enhance transparency in financial transactions and restrict or prevent criminals from using banks and other non-financial sector entities to launder money. Financial integrity laws help prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, bribery, and corruption.243 Big data is used to comply with regulatory obligations and fight financial crime.

    The effectiveness in fighting financial crime is often hindered by the quality and quantity of available data and by financial integrity regulatory asymmetry across jurisdictional boundaries. There are also tensions between the principles that stand behind the rights of transparency and security in financial integrity laws versus data privacy...