This paper describes the nature of digital intelligence and provides context for the material published as a result of the actions of National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. It looks at the dynamic interaction between demands from government and law enforcement for digital intelligence, and at the new possibilities that digital technology has opened up for meeting such demands. The adequacy of previous regimes of legal powers and governance arrangements is seriously challenged just at a time when the objective need for intelligence on the serious threats facing civil society is apparent. This paper suggests areas where it might be possible to derive international norms, regarded as promoting standards of accepted behaviour that might gain widespread, if not universal, international acceptance, for the safe practice of digital intelligence.

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The Global Commission on Internet Governance was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. The two-year project conducts and supports independent research on Internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report that will articulate concrete policy recommendations for the future of Internet governance.
  • Sir David Omand was the first UK security and intelligence coordinator from 2002 to 2005 as permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office. Previously, he was permanent secretary of the UK Home Office and director of Government Communications Headquarters (the UK signals intelligence and cyber-security agency). He has a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics and a master’s in economics. He is a fellow of Corpus Christi College Cambridge and is senior independent director of Babcock International Group PLC. His book Securing the State is published by Hurst (United Kingdom) and Oxford University Press (United States).