October 05, 2006

"A conversation with someone who doesn't exist"

The CIA gets lessons in blogging:
For the past two days, I and several esteemed colleagues participated in a CIA workshop on blogs and Wikis, organized by MarkOehlert at BoozAllenHamilton. The intention was for people within the CIA to learn more about blogs and Wikis from us, but the learning was decidedly bidirectional. We got a glimpse of how the intelligence community works, and we got a chance to further guide the CIA's thinking on how to improve the way it collaborates, both internally and with others.
I wonder what the CIA folks thought of this part of the session:
Blogs feel like private spaces, and so people share information on them as if they were private, information that can bite you in the butt later on.

A more subtle example is the Wikipedia visualization that FernandaViegas and MartinWattenberg demonstrated at WikiMania last month. The two were able to show all sorts of personal information about users inferred solely from their editing behavior, which is all publically available. I'm quite certain that none of these users had any idea that such revealing visualizations were possible, and that many would have thought twice about participating if those visualizations were available. Viegas and Wattenberg have been struggling with the ethics of making such visualizations available because of privacy concerns, but the reality is that someone less thoughtful can come along and do the exact same thing.
As a blogger, I assume that anybody who really wants to, and has the contacts and/or tools, can track down my identity. I use a pseudonym to protect my family from the psycho wingnut-cases who lurk in dark corners like Protein Wisdom and ITM. But I guess if I were a CIA employee I would want to have an even better idea of what footprints I was leaving online...
There are several active bloggers within the CIA, including several senior-level people. There is also a Wiki for the intelligence community called Intellipedia. Of the 40 participants at the workshop, more had used Intellipedia than blogs, and I suspect that many more will try it after the proceedings of the past two days.
Cyberspace. The new frontier.

(Again, h/t to AL for the link).


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