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The notion of “big data” implies very specific technical assumptions. The tools that have made big data immensely powerful in the private sector depend on having all (or nearly all) of the possible data. In our experience, these technical assumptions are rarely met with data about the policy and social world. This paper explores how information is generated about killings in conflict, and how the process of information generation shapes the statistical patterns in the observed data. Using case studies from Syria and Iraq, we highlight the ways in which bias in the observed data could mislead policy. The paper closes with recommendations about the use of data and analysis in the development of policy.