I was on my way back to New York from Europe when I heard about the Paris shooting and ensuing manhunt for the lone gunman. The Paris police subsequently issued a request for public assistance to identify the suspected man in photos. If the volume of response is similar to that received by the investigators after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Paris police will likely receive thousands of calls, emails, videos, and online postings. In addition to public help, the investigators may ask service providers such as Orange and Google to turn over cell-phone images, etc. However in light of the NSA scandal and potential legal issues, they are unlikely to go down this route.
Of course, time is critical to capture and to prevent more acts of violence by this shooter and to identify accomplices if any. Law enforcement agencies recognize that big data technology can help with this type of analysis. According to a GCN article first published in February 2013, at least 75% of federal and state IT managers surveyed identified four high potential use cases for big data. Saving lives with real time detection of health threats and reducing crime with predictive analytics are two of the four use cases. Ironically, a data store developed and made public by the NSA - now known as Apache Accumulo - can help Parisian police sift through this mountain of data fast. According to Wiki, written in Java, Accumulo is a NoSQL Wide Column data store based on Apache Hadoop.
In summary, big data technology has loads of potential for crime prevention and for improving services on both federal and state levels. On one side, If the Paris police can use technology like Accumulo to help capture the gunman faster, then that’s a great example of a big data use case for public good. On the other side, criminals could easily use such technology ... well you get the rest. It's in the hands of the developer and requires a different type of policing altogether.
My excuse for this random musing is jetlag and I'm sticking to it.
Update: The police have a suspect in custody after receiving nearly 700 calls and unspecified number of other messages. Another interesting bit of information on big data and surveillance came from an article published by the Defense System Staff on October 10, 2013. "Market researcher IHS estimates that HD surveillance cameras are generating an astounding 413 petabytes, or quadrillon bytes, a day." This data is expected to double to 859 petabytes per day by 2017.