Legal Control of Big Data Investigations

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.11, 2018


Legal Control of Big Data Investigations



Cheng Lei


Through the use of computer technology to collect, share, screen, compare and unearth data stored online and in computer systems, big data investigations can locate clues, evidence or suspects. Such investigations have three main modes: the goal-driven, the comparison-driven, and event-driven. These are of practical use in crime prevention and prediction and in the field of detection. As big data investigations challenge some basic rights and legal values, they have to be brought under legal control. However, the traditional framework of legal norms lags behind. Definition of the legal properties of big data investigations is unclear; there are limits to differentiating data contents from metadata; the threshold for launching criminal proceedings exists in name only; and the boundary line between ascertained offense and unaccomplished crime is also unclear. Dual approaches can be adopted for gaining legal control of big data investigations: detection standards and data standards. With detection standards, we should follow the principles of legality and proportionality and strengthen external and judicial oversight. With data standards, we propose introducing appropriate legal principles and mechanisms for protecting personal information, including establishing legitimate aims and specific principles, giving data subjects the right to know and the right to make changes, and setting up arrangements for information security and data quality control, together with procedures for supervision of the use of personal information and relief procedures.