For-profit Spies

 

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By Vincent, Martina, Nadine, & Nour

What is Booz Allen Hamilton?

Booz Allen Hamilton, founded in 1914, by Edwin G. Booz, James L. Allen and Carl L. Hamilton is a management consulting firm headquartered in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with 80 other branches throughout the United States. A partner at the forefront of global cyber security, it specializes and actively engages in the commercial sector as well, partnering with multi-national companies in a diverse range of fields, from energy to financial, to health, and high-tech manufacturing. Moreover, it is affiliated with the US Government as contractors aiding with the processing of big data that civilian, defense, and intelligence agencies collect.

As previously mentioned, Booz Allen Hamilton is associated with private businesses; however, the focus of this project will address its affiliation with the US government, more specifically, the NSA. Cooperation with federal agencies in the US has been facilitated by the acquisition of several contracts by Booz Allen. This has given the company rapid access to a wide range of consulting services, including management, organizational, telecommunications, and information technology.

Some very contentious debate and controversy has surrounded this firm, especially in 2013, when one of its private contractors, Edward Snowden, leaked classified information about a program nicknamed “PRISM”, designed as a surveillance infrastructure allegedly intended to protect against terrorist threats. Debate ensued on the basis of the US government sacrificing citizen’s privacy in return for what it claimed was an attempt to safeguard the general public.

How Does BAH use Big Data? 

As a consulting company, it is quite clear how BAH utilizes big data. Whether it is working for a multinational company, domestic company, or even the NSA, its main focus is collecting information-rich data as well as beneficial data. Unfortunately, this creates a thin line between what is considered ethical and unethical. As was revealed by the Snowden fiasco, BAH and the NSA apply more phone and internet eavesdropping than most citizens would like.

Big Data Science Concept - world map with data science business icon

Pros

By analyzing all the big data collected through these eavesdropping sessions, Booz Allen Hamilton and the NSA hope that they would successfully prevent any terrorist attacks. On a more basic level, they aspire to apprehend terrorists before they even consider making a move. The use of big data in this case would be enough reasoning since it is used to enhance the national security of the US.

Another advantage of BAH’s usage of big data is that it can help the government with all consulting matters which it would not be able to do otherwise. Once again, this is beneficial because it is time efficient and it hires the most talented technology technicians available.

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Cons 

While Booz Allan Hamilton has the fantastic opportunity to benefit from the use of Big Data in its contractual work, it still faces a number of obstacles to achieving this goal. The digital security infrastructure developed by the United States government is massive, collecting millions of gigabytes of data on US citizens. Processing this vast trove of information is incredibly challenging and requires human analysis. Post-9/11, the US Government faced a windfall in data analysts, forcing them to turn to companies like Booz Allen Hamilton to fill this void with contract labor.

Human data analysis is an essential component of Big Data. However, it is also the source of a number of issues. The first and most relevant is the exposure to classified information. This proved to be serious problem for BAH, when one of their contractors, as mentioned earlier, leaked information on NSA’s surveillance programs to the press. This led to an immediate financial and political fallout. Within the first few days of the leak, BAH’s stock price dropped significantly. The fallout from the leak information climaxed when the US government voted to curtail use of mass data collection. This significantly impacted a large source of income for BAH.

Another issue that BAH faces is the scale of the data available for analysis. While the information is easily collected through traditional surveillance methods, identifying potential security threats proves to be a demanding task. The information is often filtered looking for specific phrases or applied to particular cases, but as a preventive measure, there was very limited success for the application of big data on national security threats.

Therefore, while human analysis of this large scale data collection is essential to create value, the results could be preliminary and the potential for the abuse of classified material is high.

Preliminary References 

What you need to know about Booz Allen Hamilton. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2013/06/10/edward-snowden-and-the-nsa-leaks-what-you-need-to-know-about-booz-allen-hamilton/

The outsourcing of U.S. intelligence raises risks among the benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-outsourcing-of-us-intelligence-raises-risks-among-the-benefits/2013/06/09/eba2d314-d14c-11e2-9f1a-1a7cdee20287_story.html?tid=a_inl

Booz Allen, the World’s Most Profitable Spy Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-06-20/booz-allen-the-worlds-most-profitable-spy-organization

King, R. (2014). Ex-NSA Chief Details Snowden’s Hiring at Agency, Booz Allen. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304626804579363651571199832

Chatterjee, P. (2013). Investigate Booz Allen Hamilton, not Edward Snowden | Pratap Chatterjee. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/edward-snowden-investigate-booz-allen

Our Systems Delivery Impact. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.boozallen.com/

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