The Crisis of Official Statistics in the Age of Data Revolution

Data revolution is bringing along a social and economic transformation of hitherto unknown speed and depth. The present and future of official statistics during these fundamental changes is predicated upon its capacity to fulfil its mission and obligations to capture social, economic and environmental trends with trustworthy reliable and high quality statistical information. Novel challenges arose in the wake of increasing predicaments surrounding the rule of law (that had sustained official statistics for a long historical time period), the practice of big tech firms in data collecting and analysis, social media with its post-truth, conspiracy theories, and fakes news outlets, as well as the rise of identity politics and the transformation of political and communication environments. The study discusses the critical readings of surveillance capitalism and its manipulative techniques as well as the responses from various institutions of official statistics (primarily Eurostat) which reflect an acute awareness of the threats. Data assets that carry the new social and economic reality of data revolution are the exclusive private property of tech companies. These data are social facts to which official statistics has no access. It cannot improve its classifications, categories and concepts to capture the new social reality making its representations of reality more and more opaque, obscure, discrediting itself in the long run. Official statistics is also not to be blamed as its crisis is caused by irreversible changes beyond its reach. One solution would be if it could access the data embodying the new social reality of data revolution in a legally secured, regulated and transparent manner.

Released: Replika 117–118, 179–210.