REVEALING LINKS: The Power of Social Network Analysis

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Drawing on insights of the intelligence experts at i2, this paper provides an overview of Social Network Analysis; how it can be used to enhance traditional analysis techniques and maximize the value of data; and its potential for use by a wide range of organizations to analyze and visualize a variety of network data.

Traditionally, intelligence analysts have employed link analysis to map associations among people, places and commodities, usually working backwards from a crime or terrorist attack to identify the perpetrators and their modus operandi. Today, however, the intelligence community faces a new kind of enemy – the asymmetric threat – that requires new approaches. When it is hard to understand where a threat may be coming from or in what form it will appear, analysts must take a much more proactive approach toward the information they collect, augmenting existing traditional qualitative-based link analysis methodologies with alternative, more quantitative analysis methods.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) is one of these alternative methods. Despite its title, SNA is not social networking like Facebook or Bebo (although the SNA methodology could be used to analyze that sort of information). Instead, SNA is a useful way for intelligence teams to analyze and understand complex networks of entities, such as individuals or organizations, by measuring or weighting the interactions between them.