New CRC to tackle big data and national security | Law

New CRC to tackle big data and national security

UNSW researchers are playing a key role in a new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) investigating big data and its use in defence and national security.

Researchers from UNSW Law and the School of Computer Science and Engineering are key investigators in the $88 million Data to Decisions CRC announced recently by the federal government.

The CRC – funded through a $25 million government grant and $62.5 million in participant contributions – brings together researchers in areas of computer science, engineering, business and law with industry and state and federal national security agencies.

The overarching challenge the CRC aims to address is “How does the defence and national security sector efficiently extract intelligence and unforseen insights from big data within a balanced privacy paradigm?”

“Every day, society creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data from disparate sources including satellite imagery, social media content, digital pictures, videos and voice recordings,” says the University of South Australia’s Dr Sanjay Mazumdar who heads up the CRC and the Defence and Systems Innovation Centre, a joint venture between UniSA and the University of Adelaide.

“This data is referred to as big data and it cannot be efficiently analysed using traditional data processing applications,” he says. 

“The National Security Strategy for Australia stresses the importance of timely and accurate intelligence as a powerful weapon against security threats”, Dr Mazumdar says. 

“Addressing big data challenges and applying high-performance analytics can make the difference between predicting a threat and reacting to a catastrophic aftermath.”

Professor Janet Chan, from UNSW Law, is the leader of a proposed project within one of the CRC’s three programs looking at Policy for Big Data Analysis. Joining her are UNSW Law’s Dr Lyria Bennett Moses and Dr Alana Maurushat

The project – a partnership with Deakin University Law School – will assess international perspectives, law and policies that can inform Australian policymakers and support the development of law and best practice, Professor Chan says. 

“With better technology and more availability of data, we want to discover the best ways of making sure people in the intelligence and police communities use this data effectively and at the same time the community’s civil liberties and privacy are protected. 

“There already are some legal protections and rules on how to collect and use data, but technology is changing so quickly we need to ensure that our laws and policies are keeping pace,” she says. 

Also playing a major role in the CRC is UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Associate Professor Wei Wang is a key researcher in the Database program. 

The program aims to address the question of how to best ingest, store, manage and disseminate large volumes of data across Cloud-based infrastructure. 

“The research challenges are two-fold: to store and correlate large amount of data in different formats from multiple sources, and to enable efficient and intelligent search on them. This will enable us to analyse data in an unprecedented and powerful manner,” Associate Professor Wang says. 

Other CSE researchers involved are Associate Professor Salil Kanhere, Professor Boualem Benatallah and Dr Srikumar Venugopal. 

Professor Chan says Law and CSE will work closely together.  “We believe it’s important for computer scientists to understand the law and policy implications of the technology they’re developing so it is designed in ways that are acceptable to  the wider community,” she says. 

“It’s a great example of interdisciplinary collaboration and of our B2B mission to take research from the lab and into the world.” 

The CRC will employ 189 staff and 50 PhD students over its five-year funding period. It is predicted it will help to build a substantial big data industry that will position Australia as an international exemplar in the development and use of big data capability.