Let's take the technical definition of Stanford Book "Analysis of Massive Datasets" by Ullmann. They define Big Data a data set that can't be stored and used in a single computer/server. It's common necessity to use specific new algorithms to work with this amount of data because old algorithms for data analysis have a huge time cost that grows more than linearly in the size of data.

My aim is to prove that government/politics are increasingly using big data to take decisions, write law, and test the validity of a decision.

Can you give me an example of a decision making process in politics which has been influenced by big data?

Can you cite a law and its related academic research that has been used to write the law?

Can you tell if Big Data has already started to change the structure of political institution in a country?

Which data do they use? How do they collect it?

  • 6
    This kind of open-ended question is not a good suit for the stackexchange model. You want a question that has preferably a single objective answer.
    – Publius
    Mar 10, 2015 at 23:26
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    Also, even if you were to refine the question, you'd need to define "big data". It's a buzzword.
    – Bobson
    Mar 11, 2015 at 18:08
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    Yes! Politicians use big data to construct voting districts to their advantage with gerrymandering. strataconf.com/big-data-conference-ca-2015/public/schedule/… , therealsingapore.com/content/… . I would answer, but the question is closed by our fascist leaders.
    – Chloe
    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:01
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    @SamIam - there's absolutely no definition of what "Big Data" means in this context. Sorry, but it is unanswerable as stated, despite being interesting
    – user4012
    Mar 12, 2015 at 14:54
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    @DVK - And now there is... It actually feels answerable now, although still somewhat chatty/broad.
    – Bobson
    Mar 12, 2015 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Can you give me an example of a decision making process in politics which has been influenced by big data?

see last point, usage

Can you cite a law and it's related academic research that has been used to write the law?

Actually the law to monitor the public is the best example of introduced law. At the moment no other law springs to my mind.

Can you tell if Big Data has already started to change the structure of political institution in a country?

I think big data does change the structure of countries, but it more helps the one's in power to stay there. At the moment two examples occur to me, but there are definetly more.


Internet censorship in China


Fines and short arrests are becoming an optional punishment to whoever spreads undesirable information through the different Internet formats, as this is seen as a risk to social stability.

In 2001, Wang Xiaoning and other Chinese activists were arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for using a Yahoo email account to post anonymous writing to an Internet mailing list. On 23 July 2008, the family of Liu Shaokun was notified that he had been sentenced to one year re-education through labor for "inciting a disturbance". As a teacher in Sichuan province, he had taken photographs of collapsed schools and posted these photos online. On 18 July 2008, Huang Qi was formally arrested on suspicion of illegally possessing state secrets. Huang had spoken with the foreign press and posted information on his website about the plight of parents who had lost children in collapsed schools. Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist, used his Yahoo! email account to send a message to a U.S.-based pro-democracy website. In his email, he summarized a government order directing media organizations in China to downplay the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Police arrested him in November 2004, charging him with "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities". In April 2005, he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment and two years' subsequent deprivation of his political rights.

In mid-2013 police across China announced the arrests of hundreds of people accused of spreading false rumors online. Chinese authorities have said the crackdown is directed at abuses such as fraud, fakery, and slander. But the accusations against many of the arrested microbloggers have a political edge with many of the rumors called outrageously false by the government dealing with the sins of officials: corruption, venality, and sexual escapades. The suspicion is that the crackdown is intended to break up online networks of like-minded people whose ideas could challenge the Communist Party. Some of China's most popular microbloggers have been arrested. In September 2013 China’s highest court and prosecution office issued guidelines that define and outline penalties for punishing online rumors and slander. The rules give some protection to citizens who accuse officials of corruption, but they say that a slanderous message forwarded more than 500 times or read more than 5,000 times could result in up to three years in prison


In the last elections in the US , it is known that Obama used big data bases for example of facebook users to gain informaion about the voters.

Obama, Facebook and the power of friendship: the 2012 data election

The Obama database incorporates Vote Builder, a store of essential information such as age, postal address, occupation and voting history drawn from the voter files of 190 million active voters. It lines up and matches those voter files with data gathered from online interactions with the president's supporters – notably the millions of pieces of information its army of canvassers collected across the nation during the 2008 race, a list of email addresses of supporters that it has amassed and that now stands at about 23 million, as well as the contact information of Obama's 25 million Facebook fans.

Seeing also Obama, the ‘big data’ president Beware the Smart Campaign

Which data does they use? How they take it?

Telecommunications data retention is a huge part of data getting collected.

Looking at the EU:

On 15 March 2006, the European Union adopted the Data Retention Directive, on "the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC". It requires Member States to ensure that communications providers retain the necessary data as specified in the Directive for a period of between 6 months and 2 years in order to:

  • Trace and identify the source of a communication;
  • Trace and identify the destination of a communication;
  • Identify the date, time, and duration of a communication;
  • Identify the type of communication;
  • Identify the communication device;
  • Identify the location of mobile communication equipment.

Looking at the United States:

The National Security Agency (NSA) commonly records Internet metadata for the whole planet for up to a year in its MARINA database, where it is used for pattern-of-life analysis. U.S. persons are not exempt because metadata are not considered data under US law (section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act). Its equivalent for phone records is MAINWAY. The NSA records SMS and similar text messages worldwide through DISHFIRE.

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