Through our phones and other personal devices, governments have an unprecedented ability to collect data on our whereabouts, conversations, habits, purchases, and connections. Many are concerned that this new level of surveillance will impede free speech and the ability of social movements to organize. At the same time, however, illegal groups and networks use these same devices to organize, recruit, and do harm. Surveillance of these “dark networks” can do much to protect society at large. This conversation grapples with how a democratic society strives to achieve an acceptable tradeoff between individual privacy rights, the rights of free speech, and national security.
Brint Milward is director of the UA School of Government and Public Policy and was the first director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Since 9/11 he has studied illegal and covert networks. His articles on "dark networks," have been widely cited for their application to terrorist networks, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and other illegal activities.
Aaron Brantly is assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He has ten years of experience working in international development with a focus on communication technologies. His research focuses on national security policy issues in cyberspace including big data, terrorism, intelligence, decision-making, and human rights.
Jennifer Earl, a professor of sociology at the UA, researches the Internet and social movements, social movement repression, and legal change. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation award for research on Web activism and receives funding to research social movement organizations.