Bringing the National Security Agency into the Classroom: Ethical Reflections on Academia-Intelligence Agency Partnerships
Academia-intelligence agency collaborations are on the rise for a variety of reasons. These can take many forms, one of which is in the classroom, using students to stand in for intelligence analysts. Classrooms, however, are ethically complex spaces, with students considered vulnerable populations, and become even more complex when layering multiple goals, activities, tools, and stakeholders over those traditionally present. This does not necessarily mean one must shy away from academia-intelligence agency partnerships in classrooms, but that these must be conducted carefully and reflexively. This paper hopes to contribute to this conversation by describing one purposeful classroom encounter that occurred between a professor, students, and intelligence practitioners in the fall of 2015 at North Carolina State University: an experiment conducted as part of a graduate-level political science class that involved students working with a prototype analytic technology, a type of participatory sensing/self-tracking device, developed by the National Security Agency. This experiment opened up the following questions that this paper will explore: What social, ethical, and pedagogical considerations arise with the deployment of a prototype intelligence technology in the college classroom, and how can they be addressed? How can academia-intelligence agency collaboration in the classroom be conducted in ways that provide benefits to all parties, while minimizing disruptions and negative consequences? This paper will discuss the experimental findings in the context of ethical perspectives involved in values in design and participatory/self-tracking data practices, and discuss lessons learned for the ethics of future academia-intelligence agency partnerships in the classroom.
KeywordsIntelligence Prototype Research ethics Participatory sensing Self-tracking Values in design
This material is based upon work supported in whole or in part with funding from the Laboratory for Analytic Sciences (LAS). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the LAS and/or any agency or entity of the United States Government. The author wishes to thank the reviewers of this paper for insightful comments and suggestions for revisions.
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