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Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director
wellman at chass.utoronto.ca http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto
455 Spadina Avenue Toronto Canada M5S 2G8 fax:+1-416-978-7162
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"Updating Cybertimes: It's Time to Bring Our Culture into Cyberspace"
NSA Using Social Network Analysis
Wired News Report 09:15 AM May, 12, 2006
If the National Security Agency is indeed amassing a colossal database of
Americans' phone records, one way to use all that information is in
"social network analysis," a data-mining method that aims to expose
previously invisible connections among people.
Social network analysis has gained prominence in business and intelligence
circles under the belief that it can yield extraordinary insights, such as
the fact that people in disparate organizations have common acquaintances.
So it did not surprise many security analysts to learn Thursday from USA
Today that the NSA is applying the technology to billions of phone
records. Computer security experts say it is often more important who is
talking to who than what is being said.
The NSA declined to comment. But several experts said it seemed likely the
agency would want to assemble a picture from more than just landline phone
records. Other forms of communication, including cell phone calls, e-mails
and instant messages, likely are trackable targets as well, at least on
international networks if not inside the U.S. USA Today reported that the
NSA has collected call logs from the three largest U.S. phone companies,
BellSouth, AT&T and Verizon.
It remains unclear whether other communications providers have been asked
for their call logs or billing records. Verizon Wireless has denied
involvement in the program, while Cingular — an AT&T/BellSouth joint
venture — and Sprint Nextel have not denied participation.
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