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Big data, big issues

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Big data is a new term in the world of policymaking. It is at once all over the place yet invisible. Indeed, many people have probably never heard of it.

A cursory search for the meaning of big data reveals that this refers to data that is too big to be processed through traditional methods. This data can be used to analyse human behaviour and policy processes, and can also be useful to predict, to increase efficiency, andto innovate.

Both individuals and organisations can benefit from big data through personalised services, networked-policymaking, online consultation, prevention of terrorist attacks and traffic management, to name a few.

The network societies in which we live are subject to all forms of big data. Human beings interact on the Internet to buy products, to communicate with friends, to seek government services, to entertain themselves, and in a myriad of other ways. In turn, such behaviour is connected like a capillary, and big data is produced.

In practical terms: did you ever wonder why adverts which pop up on your computer or smartphone are usually related to your tastes? For example, I buy a lot of books, so I frequently get adverts from booksellers. Similarly, Joseph Muscat’s face was all over the Maltese online-sphere before the 2013 general election. And security agencies usually show great interest in the online activity of suspected terrorists.

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