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There is an issue with NSA, CIA, and military research using social network ideas, algorithms, computer programs or data sets. The relationship with academic social network research is fundamentally asymmetric. Academic research is in the public domain and there are career rewards for publishing it or otherwise disseminating it. Data sets used in academic research are generally required to be publicly available, subject to privacy considerations. Intelligence agencies can therefore freely harvest the fruits produced by the academy. But most intelligence research and data used to support this research is classified and unavailable to academia, potentially inhibiting scientific progress. My personal experience suggests that the intelligence community has been engaged in classified research on large scale social network research since the early 1970's. Perhaps some of this might have been of great value to academic research. We will never know. Some very able and respected network researchers have lent their talents to classified research in the quest for national security and in the hope of catching the bad guys. The choice to do this is a moral calculus. Personaly, I do not choose to do classified research. I have explored some of these matters in greater detail in my recent book, "Understanding Social Networks" Oxford University Press, 2012. Perhaps  some of the silence in reacting to the disclosure of NSA's large scale surveillance is caused by conflicted feelings within the network community.

Charles Kadushin 

On Jun 21, 2013, at 5:32 PM, Phillip Bonacich <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hi Moses,

 

            Over the past 50 years social scientists have developed sophisticated techniques for analyzing social networks.  Now these techniques are being used to fight a global war on terrorists.  We don’t own the techniques we developed but I think we can profitably reflect on the ways in which these techniques are used and the ways in which they might be used but aren’t.  For example, the resources devoted to the war on terror could be used to root out insider trading, a possibility which sends chills of pleasure down my spine.  On the other hand, in the 60’s they would certainly have been used against the civil rights and anti-war movements. 

 

 

From: Moses Boudourides [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 8:58 AM
To: Phillip Bonacich; Social Networks Discussion Forum
Subject: Re: puzzling omissions

 

Hi Phil,

 

Is there any known example of a case where NSA or anybody else has directly misappropriated data or analyses used in a journal publication of a social networks scholar and without the latter's consent or authorization? Or are we just speculating about possibilities and potential risks? Living outside the US I'm not familiar with what is really at stake in this debate and thus I'm asking.

 

Best,

 

--Moses

 

On Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 6:22 PM, Phillip Bonacich <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hi.  Let me suggest another explanation for the silence.  There have been newspaper articles recently on the increasing collaboration between major Silicon Valley firms (Google, Facebook, etc.) and the NSA.  Silicon Valley has the tools, talent, and data that the intelligence community wants.  To a much lesser extent, this relationship also holds for the social network community.  I, and probably others, am critical of massive intelligence gathering but I also know the intellectual and career pressures that would lead one to collaborate: that’s where the action is.   But, the moral dilemma is uniquely ours, and we could politely and publically debate the issues.  A debate might help all of us achieve some clarity on this murky subject.  Or, you might think of it as an experiment in network dynamics.  The outcome could be greater consensus or greater polarization.   

 

 

Phillip Bonacich

Professor Emeritus

Department of Sociology

U.C.L.A.

 

 

 

From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of James Moody
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 5:40 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: puzzling omissions

 

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He –

 

Perhaps part of the silence is because the most interesting questions raised are not particularly network-specific (who owns data, what is the balance of govt protection vs. individual privacy, etc.), while the network-analytic issues are not particularly interesting (all the descriptions suggest that they are just building a big edgelist & doing a k-step breath-first-search from target nodes). 

 

On the former, the issues are deep moral & political questions – important and interesting, but not particularly network-centric.  Perhaps the one unique advantage folks on this list have to contribute to that is probably that most of the public severely over-estimates the computational ease of any real-time monitoring (rather than just data aggregation/collection).  We could, perhaps, do a public service by making that more clear.

 

On the latter, I think the technically interesting questions  here turn on how to store, organize & efficiently maintain a giant evolving edge-list, particularly when you care about people as nodes rather than the phone numbers as nodes.  That is, since numbers get changed & re-used and any nefarious near-do-well would certainly use multiple phones, a simple phone-number-is-node-number data storage system (which is inefficient in general, but fine for a BFS where all the isolates are ignored anyway) is not going to be particularly useful.  So you need a way to take each new batch of raw two-mode data (phone number – person) and sort, merge, match, etc. to your growing archive.   (the other obvious problem once you get into people-to-number merging on real data is the problem of false positives in name matching.  Again, great problem but not unique to networks).

 

Peaceful Thoughts,

Jim

 

Professor Duke Sociology,

Director, Duke Network Analysis Center

 

 

 

From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Moses Boudourides
Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2013 4:31 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: puzzling omissions

 

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Wait a minute, folks, where's the PRISM-free social network analysis software? Tell me, Vlado, is Pajek safely PRISM-free?

Cheers,

--Moses

On Jun 20, 2013 8:25 PM, "Michał Bojanowski" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

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Bruce,

Thanks! Thats an awesome compilation.

~michal

On Jun 20, 2013 10:17 PM, "Bruce Cronin" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

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http://prism-break.org/



On 14 Jun 2013, at 14:10, "Barry Wellman" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

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>
> I am flabbergasted that there has been no discussion on this list -- or
> even announcement -- of the NSA's use of social network analysis to do
> massive surveillance of American and unAmerican populations.
>
> Nor any talk of the Turkish situation -- seems to fit Chuck Tilly's
> network-basis analyses of collective political behaviour.
>
>   Barry Wellman
>  _______________________________________________________________________
>
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>   http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman          twitter: @barrywellman
>
>   NETWORKED:The New Social Operating System. Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman
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