Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 22:50 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 22:50 | SYDNEY

Joining the dots, open-source style


James Brown


9 August 2010 09:56

Sam's post on open source intelligence software, and the amount of time I've spent recently critiquing Wikileaks, unlocked an idea about creative open source intelligence collaboration.

The proliferation of social networking software and communications technology has provided incredible opportunity for open source collaboration on knowledge projects. Wikipedia is the best example of a public, refereed system for collaborative knowledge. What if we were to match this collaborative knowledge-building approach with the public's growing appetite for transparency'

Imagine if we could provide a site where whistle-blowers could collaborate with experts, journalists, and authorities to build a picture of what's happening. Software like Matthew Burton's might help (and feel free to let me know what else is already out there).

Take the example of a government with heavily entrenched corruption (if you live in Sydney you won't have to stretch your imagination too far). Using some sort of technology that allows anonymous posting, a whistle-blower could post details of corruption to a website, using an open source version of software like Analyst's Notebook, which provides a visual representation of intelligence data (essentially a detailed mind map which can be extensively manipulated). An interested journalist could add to the data by asking specific questions or drawing connections of their own. A member of the public might have a particular expertise in mining publicly reported financial or property data and could add their insight to the analysis.

In such a way, a picture of a corrupt network might emerge. Sure, it wouldn't be legally enforceable and could be downright defamatory. But by adding to everyone's overall awareness, such collaboration might make investigative journalism or legal enforcement more focused in its efforts. In any event, it might be more practical than simply dumping thousands of documents onto a website.

The applications for anonymous open source intelligence collaboration could be immense. Italians might want to build a picture of organised-crime networks, or maybe just chart Berlusconi's love interests. International relations scholars and pundits might finally be able to nut out who did what to who and when in the South Ossetia war. There would undoubtedly be difficulties to overcome in execution, but Wikipedia and similar sites have blazed that trail already (Wikipedia continues to prevent me from posting my dogs as notable residents of my suburb).

Photo by Flickr user jessicafm, used under a Creative Commons license.