Social networking invades U.S. intelligence agencies

The Financial Times reports that the U.S. spies will have access to their own social network, dubbed "A-Space," modeled on services like Facebook and MySpace.

The Financial Times reports that the U.S. spies will have access to their own social network, dubbed "A-Space," modeled on services like Facebook and MySpace.

Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, believes the common workspace – a kind of “MySpace for analysts” – will generate better analysis by breaking down firewalls across the traditionally stove-piped intelligence community. He says the technology can also help process increasing amounts of information where the number of analysts is limited.

“Burying the same number of analysts in ever higher piles of hay would no more increase the number of needles,” says Mr Fingar.

A-Space includes email, collaborative document creation, recommendation software that figures out areas of interests for users and access to a national intelligence library.

Not surprisingly, privacy concerns for the intelligence agencies, such as protecting agents under cover and the participation of foreign agencies, have bubbled up as barriers to adoption.

The FT story noted that the CIA has used Facebook for soliciting job applicants, which spooked Facebook users who were concerned the CIA was spying on them.

The A-Space news comes out at the same time as the "Executive Summary: OIG Report on CIA Accountability With Respect to the 9/11 Attacks" report was released to the public. The report found that intelligence agencies were ineffective in connecting the dots of intelligence data.

A-Space isn't the solution to connecting the dots but it potentially could be part of a solution that includes Intellipedia, a Wikipedia-like wiki that is used by 16 intelligence agencies.

Connecting the dots is not just about connecting data points or pieces of a puzzle, but also about connecting people who know about the parts of the puzzle and collectively assembling the pieces into a coherent picture. The same goes for any company looking to harness the collective intelligence among employees, partners and customers.