Email Traffic Analysis in the Enron Case — and Beyond

Interesting article about the use of email network analysis in the Enron case in today’s NYTimes.

>Scientists had long theorized that tracking the e-mailing and word usage patterns within a group over time – without ever actually reading a single e-mail – could reveal a lot about what that group was up to. The Enron material gave Mr. Skillicorn’s group and a handful of others a chance to test that theory, by seeing, first of all, if they could spot sudden changes.

>For example, would they be able to find the moment when someone’s memos, which were routinely read by a long list of people who never responded, suddenly began generating private responses from some recipients? Could they spot when a new person entered a communications chain, or if old ones were suddenly shut out, and correlate it with something significant?

While it’s great that this technology can be used to track down corporate criminals, it also other applications:

>The scientists who are studying the Enron data said they assumed intelligence agencies are doing similar classified analyses on international e-mail traffic. Since World War II, a five-nation consortium of the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand have cooperated in a vast communications collection and analysis program called Echelon, for example, one that has assumed increasing importance since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s not a big leap from there to domestic email surveillance and analysis, say of “eco-terror” networks or “anti-war organizers.” Kinda makes you start thinking about encryption, eh?

One thought on “Email Traffic Analysis in the Enron Case — and Beyond”

  1. Did you see the documentary “Smartest Guys In The Room?” Those Enron guys are so crazy.. i have a link to enron movie website on my blog.

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