Data Gathering and counter-terrorism and crime

North Ridge Room

Monday, July 9, 2012

10:45-12:15 PM

Presenters: Erik BorlandEliot Wilczek and Michael Wartenbe

Erik Borglund

Modern criminals work across the boundaries between the physical and the digital worlds. Many argue that only one environment exists, with not boundary between the physical and the digital. That is debatable, but this paper argues that in the world of modern police investigations the physical/digital boundary clearly exists.  It is also argued that in many crimes the modern criminal can be interpreted and understood as a hybrid.  A hybrid is a unit of analysis that is an individual + Information Technology, i.e the IT cannot be seen as a separate artefact that individuals use. In this presentation the criminal and the criminal acts will be analyzed as a hybrid, but the way the police act in response to the crimes cannot be seen as hybrid action because the police separate their action into two specialist groups: IT-experts and traditional police officers.

Police investigations should capture records of both the police activities as well as the criminals’ activities. A crime is often a chain of activities that can together be judged as a crime, and the police need to find evidence for this chain of activities.

A criminal acting in a hybrid environment acts as if there are no borders: their activities can be carried out in fully digital, semi digital, and in fully analogue environments. However the police do not act as hybrids, they use expert police officers for surveillance in the digital world, and they use regular police officers to work in the analogue world. The IT-police are expert in IT activities and the others are experts in traditional police work. This means that the analogue police capture only records that they know are important for their tasks, and the IT police capture only records important to theirs. This unfortunately results in situations wherein complete and unbroken chains of criminal activities are not captured. After capture, the poilce need to aggregate collected records and evidence into a chain that provides proof “beyond reasonable doubt”. The collected records often lack the complete contextual richness that is needed to fully investigate a crime that has taken place in a hybrid environment.

One problem with the current approach is that the records captured are not fully representing all the activities that the crime produces and encompasses.  It is not possible to understand the full range of the criminals’ behaviour because some activities have not been captured. When records are artificially aggregated without assurance that they are complete, authenticity and reliability of the records can then be challenged.

Another issue that compunds the problem is that neither group accepts responsibility for records capture when information is exchanged between IT-police and traditional police.

Knowledge from this research is transferable to other hybrid environments as for example business using social media, virtual communities as part of the advertisement and communication.

There is a need for greater awareness that the criminal investigation is taking place in a hybrid arena and that the currently accepted perspective where the police act in different context separated by boundaries, negatively affects the quality of records capture. This research case is based on a large police investigation in Sweden. Problems related to records capture will be identified and solutions suggested.

Eliot Wilczek

Data Gathering and Counterinsurgency Warfare:  The Hamlet Evaluation System in the Vietnam War

This presentation examines the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES), an information system used by the US military from 1967 through 1973 to measure the level of control the South Vietnamese government had over its hamlets during the Vietnam War. The HES can be seen as an information system the US military used to represent a complex phenomenon in an understandable manner that supported decision-making. This presentation focuses on the data-gathering practices of US district advisors who generated the scores in the HES.

Michael Wartenbe

The End of Accountability

Accountability is one of the foundational concepts upon which modern archival practice and theory is based.  It is a co9ncept that is seen to be basic because it relates to the degree to which one can ensure the trustworthiness of records and, by extension, the accuracy and reliability of the record in question.

As the title of the proposed paper suggests, I argue that accountability is a concept that is increasingly fraught as a result of contemporary developments in record-keeping and politics more generally.  It refers to two senses in which the end of accountability is occurring.  The first is represented by the decreasing levels of transparency with regard to records of state, perhaps best typified by the USA Patriot Act.  In this sense, accountability is coming to an end as a result of tactics targeted making it impossible to account for certain actions. This sense is descriptive and lamentable.

The second sense in which I argue that accountability is coming to an end relates to the proliferation of documentation utilizing digital technologies and the challenge to basic principles supporting accountability that they illustrate.  Accountability is ending in this sense due to the impossibility of ever truly being able to account for an action with certainty.  The digital represents this in its apparent complexity, multiplicity and rapid “reconfigurability,” but it is merely a stark example of a deeper issue at the heart of modern societies and theories of information. This sense of the end of accountability is normative and, I argue, a positive development for archivists and record managers, who may use the end of accountability as an opportunity to fashion new conceptual tools with which to both evaluate and utilize records.

I draw first on an analysis of contemporary cases in which the issue of records and accountability have surfaced in popular discourse, primarily the USA Patriot Act and
Wikileaks, to illustrate the political aspects of the argument.  I also draw on examples from my dissertation research on Personal Health Records and Self-Documentation to illustrate arguments about the digital.


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