Intriguingly, some of the most intelligent people in the world are still using a Boolean search engine. The CTO of the CIA, Gus Hunt, is currently searching for VCs who are developing analytics technology that can work with the strict security parameters the agency must employ with its mobile devices. In other words, the CIA can’t simply have an “Analyze This” app on a smart phone; the security risks are too high. What they currently use are a series of widgets or mini-apps that can be combined to create analytical tools. However, as an organization, the CIA could do with a technology upgrade.
Obviously, the highly secure nature of the work is the greatest challenge to developing effective analytical tools that can sort through huge data sets and produce meaningful results. That kind of analysis is invaluable in terms of identifying threats to national security. However, if someone with a malicious intent was able to access the same technology and perform the same kind of analysis, the results could be quite disastrous.
This type of security paradox goes against the fundamental nature of most analytics programs, which seek to make it easier for anyone, through inherently intuitive user interfaces, to find the information they need in the fastest time possible. Part of what has made the advances in analytics so successful is the ability to quickly recognize patterns and then present these patterns to users in a graphic format that is far easier to comprehend than endless reams of spreadsheets or arcane technical charts. But once that data is that easy to comprehend, the danger of it falling into enemy hands becomes an enormous problem.
Thus far, the innovations in information management and retrieval have not had to consider security in quite these terms. The idea of creating a complex filter or process that makes it impossible for non-agency members to understand or intercept the information is one that new analytics VCs, especially those that wish to work with the government, may want to consider integrating into their technology in order to remain competitive. While greater transparency in information is vital for the growth of a healthy constituency, there are some forms of information that require a more sensitive handling process.
Thanks to the needs of organizations like the CIA, the world of analytics development will undoubtedly pioneer new methods of labyrinthine information retrieval and comparison in the coming decades.