GEOG 479
Cyber-Geography in Geospatial Intelligence

Summary and Final Tasks



The events of the Arab Spring, recent political events in Egypt, Brazil, and Turkey, and other contentious political environments have given greater awareness of the utility for social media. Communities now use resources such as Facebook and Twitter to quickly disseminate information and project influence amongst potentially geographically separated peoples. The tools and the data they generate have a geospatial component useful in analysis of occurring events as well as historical reflection of past events.

Listen to the Experts (Optional Talk)

The name of American-Latvian Valdis Krebs is written into the global corporate network, where he has become an influential player by developing innovative social network analysis and visualisation methods. Having worked with many Fortune 500 companies, Valdis was able to break the traditional stereotypes on the corporate structure and internal communication ecosystems, proving that they operate according to other rules from those written in the official corporate structure documents. Included in Valdis' achievement list is his work on complicated information distribution structures, such as corruption and terrorist network identification and analysis. This talk adds context in bridging the gap between static data, dynamic data, and data generated from complex social structures (15:55). The tools he uses for SNA produce results similar to NodeXL.

Ending up on the Wrong Side of the Tracks: Valdis Krebs at TEDxRiga
Click here for transcript of the ending up on the wrong side of the tracks video.


VALDIS KREBS: It's an honor to be here. Today is a very sad day in Latvian history. It's June 14th. And on June 14th, 1941, over 15,000 Latvians were deported to Siberia. And those that were deported were on a list like this. And as a Latvian, when I look at that list, I want to cry. But as a social scientist, when I look at that list, I wonder why. Why those people? What did they do? What information was used? Who did this? 

In America in 1941, social scientists were also making lists, except they had a different purpose. They were trying to figure out the social structures of small US towns. And they had a very interesting way of doing this. They were reading the newspaper. They were reading the society pages. They wanted to see who attended which social events. 

And their lists looked something like this. So down the left-hand side are the women that were mentioned in the society page columns, and across the top were the events that they attended. And if there's an x in the cell, that means that that woman attended that event. 

And so this is 1941, and yet they're already starting to think about social graphs. They're thinking about mapping out a network. So they had to draw this by hand. But if we take their data and put it into modern software, we get this network map. 

So we see that this community in this city was broken up into two clusters. And I painted one blue and the other one red. And the two clusters were connected by three women that were the boundary spanners in that community. And the nodes here represent the women, and the links represent the times that they attended an event in common. So if they kept going to the same places, to the same events, they had a stronger link. 

So now, we move to 2001. A lot of things have changed, but we're still making wars. But now our enemies are a little different. They're not just countries, but now we're fighting a network. And September 11th, 2001 was a very sad day in American history. And after the attack on New York, the US media kept talking about terrorists networks, and we heard that phrase all the time, but we never saw a picture of one. 

So I called some colleagues of mine that were network researchers, and I said, hey, what's a terrorist network look like? And they said, I don't know. And we called around and called around, and nobody knew what a terrorist network looked like. So I thought, well, maybe I should figure it out. 

But I had a problem. I didn't work for the CIA. I didn't work for the US government. Where was I going to get my data? So I did what the social scientists did in 1941-- I read the newspaper. So I would get up every morning, turn on my computer, and I would read international papers and see what was new with the terrorist attack on New York. What new information was found about the 19 hijackers? 

And as I did this, I was able to connect the dots and create a network like this. So this network map is a little more complex than the previous one. This shows both the hijackers and their support system. The hijackers are in one of the bright colors. There's one bright color for each plane. There were four planes. So there's the red plane, the pink plane, the green, and the blue. 

The pilots are highlighted in yellow. And you could see the pilots were very much in the thick of things in that network. And then their support staff were the gray nodes. 

So what is this that I do? It's called social network analysis, and it's been a field that's been around since 1930s, 1940s, and it's grown very slowly. But it's grown very fast in the last couple of years because people are getting lots of data from places like this-- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. [INAUDIBLE]. All these are full of network data. Most of you are probably members of one or more of these. Your data is in there. 

And it's not just websites, and it's not just online social networks, but it's other places that have data. Here is my LinkedIn map. And so here, we see me in the center, and then we see all the clusters around me. We see the folks back in the US are the green cluster on the left. People that are also social network analysts are the purple cluster the upper right. Management consultants are the orange cluster on the far right. 

So just with the click of a mouse, I can go to LinkedIn, and I can do the same thing that it took the researchers in 1941 weeks and months to do. And LinkedIn knows who I'm connected to. LinkedIn knows how they're connected and also what topics we're interested in, so how to group us, how to put us together. 

So these other devices that we have are our smartphones, and all of you probably have a smartphone in your pocket or your purse right now. And it's beaming out information if you have GPS turned on. And if you're sitting next to somebody else who has a smartphone with GPS, somebody could put two and two together and say, ah, these two people might know each other. 

And there's a lot of other information in here. There's your call log-- so who you've called, who has called you back, who you've texted. Your contacts are in there, what you like, your Web history-- all that's in there. This is great input for social network analysis. 

So all of us are real happy with our tools. We have these great conveniences, and life is so easy with our iPhone, and it's so nice to be able to go to any cafe that has Wi-Fi and get on the net. So most of us take this kind of approach to sharing our data on the internet. 

We say, after all, we've done nothing wrong, so why should we worry? Well, let me tell you a story about somebody that did nothing wrong. Her name is Rena, and she's a journalist in the United States, and about five or six years ago, she interviewed me for an article that she was working on. 

And after the interview, she said, can I have some more of your time? I have some questions that I want to ask you that are kind of personal. I said, OK. And she started out, and she said, well, I think the US government is interested in me. I said, really? She said, yeah, every time I go to the airport, I have to go through all this extra security, and I have to have my baggage checked a lot more than everybody else, and I always get pulled aside, and people ask me questions, and I've missed some of my flights. And I'm afraid I might be on one of these no fly lists. 

I said, hmm, OK. And so she told me the story. And she said, well, it all started when I started to interview these two guys, Bruce and Michael. Bruce and Michael are nuclear weapons specialists that worked for the US government. And then she said I have this cousin Gina that I'm real close to, and Gina is married to this guy named Abdul. We call him AK for short, and he's also a friend of mine, and Abdul has a real good friend named Samir, who is the older brother of Yasin. 

And then she dropped the bombshell. She said, oh, by the way, Yasin is a convicted terrorist. Uh-oh. So now, we have Rena two steps away from a convicted terrorist and talking to nuclear weapons specialists. 

She said, oh, by the way, I had to do research. So this is one of the things that I searched for. 


So she said, what do you think of all this? Am I on a no fly list? And I said, I have no way of knowing that. That's not something the government shares with people. But I bet you're on somebody's monitor. I bet somebody is looking at you, and it probably looks like this. 

So again, we have the government folks, we have six convicted terrorists. Lackawanna was a city that they were in an upstate New York. And then we have Rena and her friends and family in between. 

So there's good news. I talked to Rena a few weeks ago, and she said that she is now breezing through security. She no longer has to answer any extra questions, and she doesn't have her luggage checked three or four times. And in her own words, she said, I am no longer a person of interest. I am now just an interesting person. 

So Rena was what we call a false positive, somebody that looks like they may be in trouble but really aren't. And Rena is real lucky that somebody figured that out because they don't always get figured out to your benefit. 

So what do your internet tracks reveal about you? If we looked at your phone, if we gathered all the data, and if we looked at the GPS data right now emanating from your phones, we could probably do a seating chart of this conference. You know exactly where everybody sitting, who they're sitting next to. And as long as it's for science, hey, that's great. 

But we're now in 2011, and Arab Spring is going on. And what's happening is that the dictators that are being revolted against are starting to realize that the internet is being used against them. People are using social media to arrange revolts, to arrange protests, to arrange marches. 

And so some of the dictators respond by turning off the internet. But that doesn't work because people just find another way of communicating. And those people that turned off the internet-- they're not around anymore. 

There are other dictators who thought, well, wait a minute. I'm not going to turn off the internet. I'm going to use the internet. And they watched as people planned and organized, and who was doing the planning, and who was doing the organizing. And they were able to build network maps, just like I did of the 9/11 hijackers. And once they had that map built, they could figure out who the leaders were. And then they removed the leaders. Those dictators are still around. 

So 1941, 2011-- we have simple lists that are put together, maybe haphazardly in '41, but they're deadly nonetheless. In 2011, dictators and people of ill will are using science and are targeting people based on the information that's available on the internet. 

So if you are a Latvian in Riga in 1941, and the Cheka, precursor to the KGB, wanted to find out who your contacts were, they would take you to the corner house, and they would interrogate you. And maybe after some torture, you would give up your contacts. 

But today, no torture. All they have to do is click a mouse, and the information that they got out of you-- would be a torture 60 years ago-- now is in your Gmail, on your phone, or on your Facebook account. All your contacts, all the people that you respond to regularly, all your friends, all of your trusted others. 

So I leave you with this final thought. The internet has your tracks, and the internet does not forget. Thank you. 

Credit: TEDx Talks

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