Reality check: intelligence agencies have been using social network analysis since the 1990s

There is a big hubbub today over a New York Times article N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens.

I fail to understand why this is big news, since US intelligence agencies have been using social network analysis (SNA) for domestic purposes since the 1990s, and likely even before that. The only issue here is that the NSA is tasked with non-domestic surveillance, so is not supposed to gather data on US citizens. However other US agencies that cover domestic intelligence have long been using SNA.

Certainly recent revelations suggest the NSA appears to have data surveillance capabilities that exceed those of US domestic intelligence agencies, but there is no good reason to imagine the CIA, among others, doesn’t have access to equally good data to seed its social network and other analysis.

I have been focused on networks since long before I wrote Living Networks in 2002. In the July 22, 1997 issue of The Bulletin (at the time Australia’s equivalent of Newsweek) included an article I wrote titled Beware! Netmap may be watching, which described how an Australian software package called Netmap was being used by police and intelligence around the world, taking examples of the identification of insider trading and a serial murderer. I wrote:

“For nearly 10 years, Netmap has been used primarily in high-level security and intelligence analysis. In Australia clients include the NSW Police… and the Australia Tax Office, while in the United States, several secretive government agencies use the software.”

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[VIDEO] Conversation with Gerd Leonhard: The future of Switzerland

When I was recently visiting Switzerland to deliver a keynote on the future of work my colleague Gerd Leonhard and I recorded a series of video conversations that are featured in his Meeting of the Minds series.

Following our conversations on the implications of Big Data and the future of privacy, here is our dialogue on the future of Switzerland.

While I haven’t spent a lot of time in Switzerland recently, I lived there for 13 years in my childhood, so do have experiences and perspectives to bring to bear on the topic.

Here are some of the issues we discuss in the video:
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Launch of CIO of the Future

Advanced Human Technologies is, among other things, a publisher. To complement our existing ventures and publications, we have been building the platform and capabilities to generate more web publications and soon, more books and reports.

The general theme of our publications is the future, or in some cases what we need to do today to be successful in the future.

The first of our new phase of publications is, looking at where the Chief Information Officer role is going.

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Exploring the future of investment management

Last week I was in Amsterdam for the International User Community Meeting of SimCorp, a leading provider of software for the investment management industry. I gave the keynote on the Future of Investment Management and ran a half-day Executive Master Class on Creating the Successful Organisation of the Future.

Prior to founding Advanced Human Technologies most of my working career had been in financial markets with Merrill Lynch and capital markets with Thomson Financial, with my final role as Global Director – Capital Markets.

My initial client base when I established my company was largely in financial services, and I began to focus on the investment management industry, for a number of reasons.

In the later 1990s my work and research was split between the fields of knowledge management and intellectual capital on the one hand, and futures methodologies such as scenario planning on the other.
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Conversation with Gerd Leonhard: The future of privacy in a world of government data gathering

I recently spend some time with Gerd Leonhard recording some conversations about the future. After our video on Big Data, here are our thoughts on the future of privacy in the wake of the disclosures of NSA and US government data gathering.

Some of the points we made in our conversation:
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Leadership in enterprise technology must come from all organizational functions

This morning I gave the opening keynote at SAP Australia Users Group Summit on Leadership in Enterprise Technology.

One of my central themes was that leadership in enterprise technology no longer resides just with the CIO and IT function.

The Future of the CIO is absolutely a critical frame, not least because I believe the CIO has primary responsibility for guiding boards of directors and top executive teams to understand the importance of technology in their organization’s future.
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The crime of the century: stopping the potential of connectivity

Last week I gave the keynotes at the Sydney and Melbourne relaunch events of Nextgen Group, which has restructured and rebranded with the acquisition of 70% of the group by Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) from Leighton Holdings. The group provides networks, data centers, and hosting services, including a 100Gbps link between major Australian cities, and is building a submarine fibre cable linking Australia to Singapore.

The theme of my keynote was The Future of a Connected World, showcasing some of most interesting implications and potential of connectivity.

To provide some context for the future I spent a moment looking at the past of connectivity, which unfortunately is not always as happy a story as the future.
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Amsterdam visit September 18-20: keynotes at Dutch Future Society and on the future of investment management

I am looking forward to getting back to Amsterdam this September 18-20, after doing the keynote at TheNextWeb last year.

I will be giving a keynote on The Future of Investment Management and run an executive workshop on Creating the Successful Organisation of the Future at the closed-door SimCorp International User Community Meeting.

I will also be giving a keynote at the Dutch Future Society, described here:

The Dutch Future Society is proud to present a session with Ross Dawson. Ross will give a keynote presentation on what he believes is the role of the futurist; why he combines the roles of futurist and entrepreneur; some of the central trends he follow on the future of work, crowdsourcing, infinite information, creativity and experimentation; how he uses visual and now frameworks for futures communication; and how he has built his global business as a futurist.

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Meeting of the Minds with Gerd Leonhard: The implications of Big Data

My futurist colleague Gerd Leonhard and I have highly complementary perspectives, so we are finding increasing interest in engaging us together for executive sessions.

When Gerd was in Sydney two years ago we created a series of videos together. After I recently did a keynote in Interlaken, Switzerland, I visited Gerd at his home in Basel where we did another series of videos for his Meeting of the Minds project. Here is the first one in the series, on Big data.

Just a few of the points we cover in our conversation:
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