ANU School of Sociology Senior Lecturer Dr Gavin Smith. Photo by Stuart Hay.

ANU School of Sociology Senior Lecturer Dr Gavin Smith. Photo by Stuart Hay.

The problem of too much data

A digitally connected world means a lot of data. And, as AARON WALKER uncovers, many big opportunities.

In the heart of the national capital, fixed speed cameras interact with a motor registry computer, logging every driver that passes along its major roads.

Those computers link to the police's list of outstanding warrants, stolen vehicles and suspected criminals. Tracking offenders in the 21st Century is all about data.

Our mobile phones are constantly transmitting signals to transmitter towers that can identify our location. If any of us make a call, send a text, email or even just connect to the internet, our digital footprint increases.

If we've driven past a police car or traffic camera fitted with licence plate scanners that information is automatically pinged back to police headquarters.

If the home or business we are parked in front of has CCTV cameras our presence is recorded.

All of this information can be tracked, collated, and analysed to produce a remarkably accurate account of where each of us is 24 hours a day.

Welcome to the modern world of big data, where every digital interaction contributes to a mountain of information so big that no one is even sure how to use it.

What almost everyone can agree upon is that this information is incredibly powerful and incredibly valuable.

In 2013, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) was chosen to head up a new Data Analytics Centre of Excellence to help make use of the terabytes upon terabytes of data captured by various government agencies.

This was followed in 2015 by the Federal Government introducing metadata retention laws.