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Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

Congratulations to Louise Amoore ESRC Success

(2 August 2007)

Project Duration: 01st September 2007 for 36 months

Summary of Research
In the aftermath of the events of 9/11, political debates and public investigations emphasised the problem of locating information about risk and threat in advance of a terrorist attack. In 2003, for example, a US joint Senate and Congress inquiry concluded that "on September 11, enough relevant data was resident in existing databases" so that, had the "dots been connected" the events could have been "exposed and stopped" (US joint inquiry 2003). The idea that data offers the solution to problems of security risk has quickly established itself at the forefront of what has come to be known as the war on terror. Of course, the use of data to govern risk is not without controversy. In an attempt to persuade the European Union to permit continued disclosure of airline passenger data to US authorities, for example, Michael Chertoff argued that "after 9/11 we used credit card and telephone records to identify those linked with the hijackers". "Wouldn't it be
better", he asked, if we could "identify such connections before a hijacker boards a plane" (Washington Post, August 2006: A15). The European debate about the use of data as a risk management tool continues to gain profile, not only around data-mining for border controls at airports and land borders, but also in the tracking of terrorist finances.

The Data Wars project will provide the first sustained analysis of the changed maps of governance that are emerging in
the European data-led war on terror. The UK-Netherlands bilateral collaboration will allow the investigators to provide a fine-grained analysis of two key areas where data from the commercial sector is being used for security purposes. The first is the use of data to govern the mobility of people (border controls and passenger profiling), and the second the use of data to govern the mobility of money (financial data mining, suspicious transactions reporting, and surveillance of wire transfers).

The research in both spheres is united by a set of common objectives:
1) To generate new empirical knowledge about the ways in which data-led risk technologies are deployed in the war on terror in Europe;
2) To analyze the emergence of new spaces of transatlantic governing in which data-led security decisions are authorized;
3) To advance theoretical understanding of the role of data-led risk management in the war on terror.

The research employs a three step methodology, incorporating textual analysis of key documentation and reports, nonparticipant observations of debates, presentations and commercial workshops, and selected interviews with public and private players in the European data-mining debates.

The selected case studies are as follows:
1. Mobility of people a) Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data.
Issue areas: Passenger Name Record data protection under national security; transatlantic extradition of commercial data; actions taken against non-screened passengers and airlines; privacy.
b) e-borders Issue areas: regulation of inter-agency and international access to data; transfer of biometric data; identifying and defining suspicious individuals; outsourcing of data mining.
2. Mobility of money a) EU third money laundering directive
Issue areas: risk-based suspicious transactions reporting; defining of suspicious transactions; banks' implementation of regulation.
b) SWIFT Issue areas: transatlantic extradition of commercial data; defining suspicious wire transfers; privacy; accountability in governing.