Bringing the National Security Agency into the Classroom: Ethical Reflections on Academia-Intelligence Agency Partnerships

Author data: 
Christopher Kampe, Gwendolynne Reid, Paul Jones, Colleen S., Sean S.
Publication Date: 
January 2018
Description: 

Science and Engineering Ethics

Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds

Academia-intelligence agency collaborations are on the rise for a variety of reasons. These can take many forms, one of which is in the classroom, using students to stand in for intelligence analysts. Classrooms, however, are ethically complex spaces, with students considered vulnerable populations, and become even more complex when layering multiple goals, activities, tools, and stakeholders over those traditionally present. This does not necessarily mean one must shy away from academia-intelligence agency partnerships in classrooms, but that these must be conducted carefully and reflexively. This paper hopes to contribute to this conversation by describing one purposeful classroom encounter that occurred between a professor, students, and intelligence practitioners in the fall of 2015 at North Carolina State University: an experiment conducted as part of a graduate-level political science class that involved students working with a prototype analytic technology, a type of participatory sensing/self-tracking device, developed by the National Security Agency. This experiment opened up the following questions that this paper will explore: What social, ethical, and pedagogical considerations arise with the deployment of a prototype intelligence technology in the college classroom, and how can they be addressed? How can academia-intelligence agency collaboration in the classroom be conducted in ways that provide benefits to all parties, while minimizing disruptions and negative consequences? This paper will discuss the experimental findings in the context of ethical perspectives involved in values in design and participatory/self-tracking data practices, and discuss lessons learned for the ethics of future academia-intelligence agency partnerships in the classroom.