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Clefs CEA n°64 - Les voix de la recherche - Journey to the heart of Big Data

Big Data and economic intelligence: opportunities with prudence

From the economic intelligence (EI) standpoint, advanced processing techniques applied to vast sets of data present as many risks as there are opportunities. How does one strike the right balance between the defensive aspects and the competitive aspects of EI?

Complete version of the article published in Clefs CEA n°64 - Journey to the heart of Big Data. 

Published on 13 June 2017

The economic and security implications of data exploitation are considerable. From economic security to influence, through the collection and analysis of strategic information, Big Data opens up a new dimension for strategic information management. Three aspects can be taken into consideration.

From the defensive standpoint, processing technologies now make it possible to conduct detailed profiling of the activities of a company or an organisation through open data. In this respect, the approaches linked to Open Science or Open Data in general that have been adopted by some, must be treated with a degree of circumspection. 

From the competitive standpoint, one must be able to use collection, analysis and visualisation tools tailored to the ecosystem in which one is working. The management and correct integration of large masses of data, whether or not structured, can enable decision-makers to extract knowledge to help with their decisions and thus obtain a competitive edge.

In legal terms, data processing throws up two main concerns: the legal protection of the processed data and the uses made of the processing. On the one hand, the data can be personal and regulated, on the other, the interconnection of several files with different original purposes must be closely supervised and cannot take place without prior due consideration.

Data are today omnipresent at CEA. Over and above storing and processing them, one must be capable of cataloguing them, securing them and making provision for their evolution over time. Improving the methodological approach and reinforcing governance tools are thus required in parallel with the technical implementation of Big Data.

So, should information be shared or protected? There is no simple answer to this debate at a time of digitalisation and collaborative intelligence. Information only has value when exploited rapidly and when disseminated. Keeping information for oneself and giving priority to one’s own interests generally runs contrary to the collective interest of the organisation. This is one of the main obstacles to the EI approach. “Confidentiality” must not be a pretext for hoarding information. 

However, progress in data processing requires the transition from a sequential approach to an overall vision of security. The focus of attention now is not so much the individual sensitivity of the scientific or technological information, but more the knowledge that can be gleaned from the analysis of a sum of apparently innocuous data.


Frédéric Mariotte, Jean-Pierre Chican and Jean-François Profichel (CEA Central Security Division).

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