A new report from the United States Studies Centre (USSC) looks at how intelligence work is changing at a rapid pace due to digital disruption. 

The report - Secrecy, sovereignty and sharing: How data and emerging technologies are transforming intelligence - explores the growing tensions between secrecy and transparency in intelligence work. This balance is particularly important in the context of trust in government and democratic resilience.  

Written by the USSC's Director of Emerging Technology, Dr Miah Hammond-Errey, the report highlights how new technologies are challenging some of the principles and practices, like secrecy and sovereignty, that have traditionally been cornerstones for intelligence agencies. 

"Greater consideration is required now to ensure the protection of necessary intelligence capabilities, such as collection methods, sources of intelligence, data and assessments," Dr Hammond-Errey says, "we need to continuously rebalance the delicate equilibrium of secrecy and transparency to ensure accountability.” 

A key consideration moving forward is assessing when it is appropriate to preserve secrecy, and when intelligence should be declassified and made public. A recent example can be seen in the declassification of US intelligence in the days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Dr Hammond-Errey concludes, “there are plenty of examples where the intelligence community is now working with industry and academia, and this needs to increase. Many of the most persistent threats like cyber-attacks require intelligence agencies to engage more closely with industry.”  

Dr Miah Hammond-Errey is the inaugural Program Director of Emerging Technology at the USSC. Her work explores the intersections of emerging technologies and security. She comes to the Centre with more than 15 years’ of experience leading tactical, operational, and strategic analysis and communications activities for the Australian Government. 

Key points

  1. Like all democratic intelligence agencies, the Australian National Intelligence Community (NIC) is experiencing a transformation brought on by digital disruption.
  2. A key impact of technology and data is that very little is likely to remain secret forever. And so it is necessary for government to continue to rebalance the tension between secrecy and transparency.
  3. Emerging technologies are challenging some of the long-standing and foundational principles and practices of intelligence and impacting the organisations, activities and outcomes of intelligence. 
  4. The NIC needs to be more flexible in understanding data and culturally able to adapt to data-driven technologies.
  5. Digital data sharing is increasing within and between intelligence agencies but still requires improvement.

View or download the report

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