Big Data and Security in Europe

RCUK ‘Global Uncertainties’
Research Programme

‘Securing against Future Events (SaFE)’


‘Big Data and Security in Europe:
Challenges and Opportunities’

21 January 2014
(at La Bibliothèque Solvay, Parc Léopold, rue Belliard 137, Brussels)

Prof. Louise Amoore & Dr Volha Piotukh,
Geography Department,
Durham University, UK

The phenomenon of ‘big data’ appears to present unique challenges and opportunities for Europe and Europeans, resulting in much debate and contestation.

Big Data and Security in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities

One area of the ‘big data’ debate focuses on applications of large scale data analysis for European security – from ‘smart’ borders to financial tracking programmes. While many of these activities and controversies that surround them pre-date the advent of ‘big data’ (e.g., the EU-US sharing of financial and passenger name record data), recent revelations about NSA PRISM and other similar surveillance programmes have both reignited previous debates and raised new concerns. As a result, a decade on from the first deployments of commercially generated data for security purposes, we are faced with important questions: Can data on ordinary daily transactions reveal nascent security threats? What role, if any, can ‘big data’ and ‘big data analytics’ play in securing Europe and Europeans? What are the implications of the reliance on new forms of data analysis within the security domain?

A second aspect of the European ‘big data’ debate centres on its societal effects – and particularly its implications for privacy:What happens to our conventional understandings of privacy amid automated algorithms, mirror databases and cloud computing? As the European data protection framework develops, can the data subject still meaningfully take control of her personal data in a digital world? How can national jurisdiction be extended to the multiple spaces where data are collected and processed?

The Big Data and Security symposium critically examinedthe relationship between data-driven security and data-based society in Europe, focusing not only on the volume, velocity and variety of data – the ‘big data’ itself– but also on the analytics that make sense of that data.



Registration and coffee


Welcome from the organisers


Session I

‘Big Data and Security in Europe: Opening the Debate’

Moderator – Prof. Louise Amoore
Ms Martha Bennett (Forrester Research) – cutting edge big data analytics;
Dr Jean Salomon (JSCP) – the role of big data analytics for border security;
Mr Marc Rotenberg (EPIC) – the US debates on PRISM;
Prof. Didier Bigo (King’s College London & CCLS) &
Mr Caspar Bowden (Independent Privacy Advocate) – the recent report for LIBE Inquiry on mass surveillance of European citizens


Coffee break


Session II – Round table I

‘Big data and big data analytics:
understanding the phenomenon and its potential for securing Europe and Europeans’

  • How are we to understand the phenomenon of big data and account for its significance?
  • What developments paved the way for the rise of big data and big data analytics?
  • In what domains are big-data analytics most advanced? Are these domains distinctively different from the security domain? What do they have in common?
  • What promises do big data and big data analytics have for securing Europe and Europeans?
  • What is the future of big data-driven approaches to security in Europe?

Moderator – Dr Volha Piotukh
Ms Martha Bennett (Forrester Research);
Prof. Mireille Hildebrandt (Radboud University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel);
Dr Jean Salomon (JSCP);
Mr Ian Neill (UK Border Systems Programme);
Prof. Louise Amoore (Durham University)




Session III – Round table II

‘Critical evaluation of big data-driven approaches to European security’

  • How are we to study and understand the big data-driven approaches to European security?
  • How does algorithm-based security operate? What does it act upon and what kind of action does it enable? What are its conditions of possibility?
  • What is new about the big data-driven approaches and how do they transform the nature and practices of European security?
  • What are the legal and ethico-political implications of the big data-driven approaches to European security?
  • Should we be concerned (or even challenge) the increasing proliferation of, and growing reliance upon, the big-data driven approaches to security?

Moderator – Prof. Louise Amoore
Prof. Marieke de Goede (University of Amsterdam);
Dr Ian Brown (Oxford University);
Dr Mara Wesseling (Sciences-Po University);
Dr Julien Jeandesboz (University of Amsterdam);
Prof. Elspeth Guild (Queen Mary, University of London & Radboud University)


Coffee break


Session IV – Round table III

‘Implications of big data-driven approaches to security for privacy and data protection’

  • What new challenges does the advent of big data and big data analytics pose in terms of privacy and data protection?
  • What do PRISM and similar surveillance programmes tell us about the limitations of the existing European data protection framework?
  • Will the reformed European data protection framework adequately address these challenges or do they expose the limits of the rights-based approach to privacy?
  • Should we re-conceptualise privacy in the age of big data?
  • What alternative ways of ensuring privacy should we consider?

Moderator – DrVolhaPiotukh
Jan Philipp Albrecht (MEP);
Axel Voss (MEP);
Mr Marc Rotenberg (EPIC);
Mr Caspar Bowden (Independent Privacy Advocate);
Dr Simon Rice (UK ICO)