Making sense of big data for security

J. Chan1, L. Bennett Moses2

1 Law School, UNSW Australia
2 Law School, UNSW Australia

*corresponding author:

Big Data technology is said to hold great promise for improved efficiency and effectiveness for law enforcement and security intelligence agencies. This article aims to develop a cultural analysis of the potential impact of Big Data on the production of national and international security. Building on a Bourdesian framework for analysing police and new technologies, the article draws on empirical data from an Australian study to examine how security agents made sense of the capability and value of Big Data and developed technological frames that envisaged how this new technology could enhance or change their practices. The analysis demonstrates the importance of understanding the habitus of security agents in negotiating technological change in the field of security production.


Janet Chan is Professor at UNSW Law. She is internationally recognised for her contributions to policing research, especially her work on police culture and the use of information technology in policing. Janet has been awarded a number of major grants for criminological and sociolegal research, ranging from policing, juvenile justice, restorative justice, work stress among lawyers, to projects on Big Data analytics for national security and law enforcement. Janet was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2002 for distinction in research achievements. In 2015 she was the joint recipient of the ANZSOC Distinguished Criminologist Award.