Digital Open Source Intelligence and International Security: A Primer

Akin Unver argues that intelligence is a key and continually changing the practice of statecraft. While this practice has historically been dominated by the states, merchants, and the clergy, the late-20thcentury has witnessed the privatization of intelligence and surveillance equipment and broadening of the concept of intelligence. Today internet, social media, smartphones, and data analytics have all contributed to the greater exposure and dissemination of critical information about emergencies and crisis events, thereby contributing to the faster travelling of news, secrets, and leaks. Broadly speaking, intelligence is the practice of methodical collection and analysis of critical information for the purposes of security, or advantage. Although used synonymously with espionage, or covert operations, intelligence is mostly focused on the methodical collection, processing and analysis of information that is available and ‘out there’, rather than using clandestine methods to gain such information through stealing. This drive towards the collection of more and better information has been the founding block of national security, well-evidenced in successive political treatises of statecraft, since the oft-quoted 13th chapter of the Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ – The Use of Spies: ‘Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.

Akin Unver is a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs; Cyber Fellow, Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Research (EDAM) Istanbul; and Assistant Professor of International Relations at Kadir Has University.


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