Surveillance is usually a one-way street. As the NSA and its partners monitor internet traffic, read peoples’ emails, and analyse phone metadata, the public rarely gets an insight into the people who actually carry out this work. Now one project is trying to change that, with the release of a database containing the LinkedIn profiles of over 27,000 people working in the intelligence community.
The “ICWATCH” database—a play on the NSA data-sharing program ICREACH—was developed by Transparency Toolkit, a group focused on working with open data, and was presented Wednesday at the tech and policy festival Re:publica in Berlin. The purpose of collecting all of these profiles, according to the project website, is so “that people can use them to better understand mass surveillance programs and research trends in the intelligence community.”
The database can be searched by company, location, industry and a host of other parameters, and plenty of results also include a portrait photo of the intelligence community member. The Transparency Toolkit collects and analyses all sorts of open data, such as online resumes, job listings, and social media—“and we use that to understand surveillance programmes, primarily, and also human rights abuses,” MC McGrath, who worked on ICWATCH with Brennan Novak and Kevin Gallagher, told me over an encrypted phone call.