Big Data: Legal Challenges (Full Report)

The quantity of information available in the world has dramatically increased in the last 10 years.

Today the quantity of information in the world doubles every three years1. In the year 2000 it was estimated that only 25% of the world's information was in digital form (stored on computers or computer storage media), the rest being analogue information (records, tapes, books and printed matter). By 2007 the picture had changed dramatically with only seven percent of the world's information in analogue form and 93 percent digital.

Martin Hilbert of the University of Southern California calculated that there was 300 exabytes (an exabyte is one billion gigabytes) of data in existence in 2007. An IDC study predicts the growth of information by 2020 to be to 40,000 exabytes.

1 yottabyte = 1,000 zettabytes = 1,000,000 exabytes = 1 billion pettabytes = 1 trillion terabytes

Some examples of the amount of data used today:

  • Google processes 24 petabytes of data per day, 1000 times the quantity of all information in the US Library of Congress;
  • Facebook has 10 million new photos uploaded every hour and has a "like" or comment added three billion times per day;
  • Twitter exceeded 400 million tweets per day in 2012;
  • Researchers at The University of California at Berkeley estimate that five quintillion bytes of data are produced every two days, which is equal to all the information ever produced by every conversation that has ever taken place on the planet2;
  • A Utah Data Center operating as a data storage facility for the United States Intelligence Community is estimated to be able to store exabytes of data, including:
"all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and internet searches, as well as all types of personal data trails-parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital 'pocket litter'" 3.

Related links


1Big Data, supra note 1, page 10
2Putting a Dollar Value on Big Data Insights, Alex Romanov,17 July 2013:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.