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It's coming just that much closer to reality
December 9, 2013 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Curious as to what various legal and intelligence agencies can do with the data they are now currently collecting? They are collecting cell phone locations, there are currently license plate scanning vehicles in many larger cities, and Google Maps will gladly integrate with your location mapping systems to show you what type of business is at your coordinates. All state criminal databases are now nationally available. So the ACLU would like you to know what is going to happen in the possible near future.
posted by Purposeful Grimace (68 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't even deal with this. My outrage fatigue is being severely taxed here, yet...the outrage. It keeps slipping through.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


But we'll have self driving cars by the time this system is operational so how will you be flagged as a DUI risk?
posted by humanfont at 9:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't you see? Google is selling the technology to create DUI risk, then delivering the solution with self-driving cars. Its delicious!
posted by sfts2 at 9:25 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Welcome to Minority Report, with Big Data instead of precogs. It's Philip K Dick's world; we just live in it.
posted by immlass at 9:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am Jack's over surveilled pelvis.


You could run a new industry on good karma for your phone. Drive it to church, the library, food shelters, soup kitchens...
"hey this guy Benjamin is an f'ing saint!"
posted by Smedleyman at 9:39 PM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Honestly cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres to read and I'd love to write some but nothing I could come up with could compare what we've already got.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:40 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Instead of electing a president to simply preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, we should elect a person well schooled in its intricacies - a sort of Constitutional scholar, if you will - who will understand why its protections are important for a free and prosperous people.
posted by codswallop at 9:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [42 favorites]


The only thing they're missing is that Jack is one of the 2,320 people listed as a DUI risk in the next two hours in the city and the number of cops on the Big Data Task Force, due to budget cuts, is 2. [Note: One of them is on the list of DUI risks.]

The future will be a battle between overreaching government surveillance and overwhelming government inefficiency and incompetence. I'm not sure which one will win but I know who will lose...
posted by mmoncur at 9:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


On the one hand, if you believe any crime or spy drama from Britain in the last decade, they can already do this in the UK. On the other hand, as anyone who's ever lived in a small town can tell you, one old lady looking out her window can pretty much do the same thing.

(Please regard this as gallows humor, I don't actually intend to trivialize this.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


REQUEST FOR REGARD REFILING DENIED. ANTI-NATIONAL PERSONALITY FACTORS DETECTED. RELEVANT AUTHORITIES NOTIFIED.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:58 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The future will be a battle between overreaching government surveillance and overwhelming government inefficiency and incompetence. I'm not sure which one will win but I know who will lose...

I think you might be surprised by how good government agencies are at persecuting people.
posted by clockzero at 10:00 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


As soon as the 4th picture showing Portland popped up showing areas that I've coincidentally been in in the past week my heart sort of jumped and for a second I thought this was some sort of cruel trick.
posted by gucci mane at 10:01 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The future will be a battle between overreaching government surveillance and overwhelming government inefficiency and incompetence.

The future?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:01 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA

Much of the document contains hyper-sensitive operational details which CBC News has chosen not to make public.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:09 PM on December 9, 2013


The reality is no one cares about Jack or his DUI behavior and this is a lonely tin foil hat wet dream.
posted by stbalbach at 10:15 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


> The only thing they're missing is that Jack is one of the 2,320 people listed as a DUI risk in the next two hours in the city and the number of cops on the Big Data Task Force, due to budget cuts, is 2.

The implication that I got was they wouldn't be pulling him over as one of many daily random DUI risks, but because he'd been flagged (union organizer...) to watch and intercept when a risk came up.

/adjusts tin hat
posted by lovecrafty at 10:17 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Finally, someone does a vivid connect-the-dots showing why this stuff is so threatening. So far the problems with excessive government surveillance have been described abstractly, or via one-liners. Clear and fleshed-out scenarios like this are badly needed, as well as real-life stories of people who've been hurt like this one.

Kudos, ACLU, way to do your jobs.
posted by kadonoishi at 10:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


Wow. A straw man and a silippery slope argument all at once.

I appreciate actual arguments based on the actual facts known to the public at the time, not this fakery. Here, there are no facts. Its a "hypothetical" with no evidence to support it.

I expect a lot more from the ACLU.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:40 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Actual arguments based on actual facts require actual bad things to actually happen. This is about preventing the bad things, which, actually, I find a good thing.
posted by Goofyy at 10:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Disappointing for the reasons Ironmouth points out. 90% of this is already being done with business "location intelligence," i.e. leveraging GIS data out of customer interactions, loyalty cards, and opt-in data harvesting. What the ACLU is pointing out here, whether they know it or not, is that the security state will eventually start looking at individual (vs. aggregate) personal data in exactly the way that corporations do now.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:45 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Finally, someone does a vivid connect-the-dots showing why this stuff is so threatening. So far the problems with excessive government surveillance have been described abstractly, or via one-liners. Clear and fleshed-out scenarios like this are badly needed, as well as real-life stories

When you have to set up fake "facts" that have not happened just like the Republicans, maybe the problem is not as described. While I'm sure this gets white computer programmers upset, it sure does nothing for regular beat cops just pulling over 4 black teens in a car, which really happens in our largest city. But suddenly its not about those we need to worry about, its about ridiculous fake threats to whites, who have little to worry about. Coincidence? I think not.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:45 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Please don't derail this into some bizarro thing about race? People can care about more than one thing. If you don't care about this feel free to skip the thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Emperor SnooKloze: "Disappointing for the reasons Ironmouth points out. 90% of this is already being done with business "location intelligence," i.e. leveraging GIS data out of customer interactions, loyalty cards, and opt-in data harvesting. What the ACLU is pointing out here, whether they know it or not, is that the security state will eventually start looking at individual (vs. aggregate) personal data in exactly the way that corporations do now."

So, when a Federal agent shows up to ask why my daughter is pregnant...

Seriously, this is complete crap. These panopticon cultures (in particular, the UK) don't actually prevent crimes or help solve them very much. And we are supposed to trust the people who's livelihoods depend on this surveillance to give us a straight answer on what it has actually accomplished?

Really?
posted by Samizdata at 11:01 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


And we are supposed to trust the people who's livelihoods depend on this surveillance to give us a straight answer on what it has actually accomplished?

Of course there's an explanation, but first, attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hello Ironmouth,

I think constructing a hypothetical scenario is a valid way of drawing an otherwise disengaged audience in to pay more attention. If this or any other hypothetical narrative forms the entire basis for somebody's opinions, I'd agree that's a problem.

And I'd agree that it would be distasteful if the scenario was constructed around the concern: 'What I won't be able to drive DUI anymore?'
but I think what the author is trying to convey is the capacity to use this information to assist selective enforcement of the law to achieve political goals,
and I don't think there is anything hypothetical about police selectively enforcing the law in support of a political agenda.


But if you're disappointed with this, could you explain what it is that you'd like to see instead, I'm not clear what your objection to this is.
posted by compound eye at 11:13 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think constructing a hypothetical scenario is a valid way of drawing an otherwise disengaged audience in to pay more attention. If this or any other hypothetical narrative forms the entire basis for somebody's opinions, I'd agree that's a problem.

The scenario is non-factual. I think they should stick to the facts. This narrative should not form the basis for anyone's opinion, because the things depected in the hypothetical aren't what people need to be informed about. The government is doing certain acts. Some people think it wrong, some people think it right. This tells an untrue story and does not address the actual issues under discussion. It obscures more than it reveals and is linkbait.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find this a little odd. I'm not saying it couldn't happen but the way it's portrayed is strange - why the protracted casual language in the memo?

"Well...looky here! Dave happens to have a girlfriend!"

It wouldn't play out like that. If you're going to set up a scenario, make it plausible. Otherwise, yes it does read as tinfoil hat nonsense.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:23 PM on December 9, 2013


Considering what we know about "LOVEINT", I find it totally plausible.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 11:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's a lovely example from my home county in england where a local council used the RIP act to justify following a 4 year old home from school 21 times to determine if she lived in the cachement area of the school (and thus was eligable to attend). In the end, the court determined it was an unlawful use of the powers. Councils have used the same law to follow people suspected of leaving their dog poop behind, and snoop on the email of someone suspected of arranging dog fights.

That was 5 years ago. Now, most people have a cellphone - that gives the cell company broad location data from your tower connections, which they retain. Many people have smart phones - they're common even amongst the poor as a cheap(ish) way to get email and internet access. One of the core features is localisation. The phone knows where it is through a combination of cell tower strength, wifi APs it can see, internal gyro and magnetometer - and of course, GPS. It combines that data with online mapping data (google uses data it gathers via its Maps cars, apple bought several mapping companies, for example) to get the location. So now they now where your phone is, where it goes, where it stays.

Just for example, Google Now guesses where you live and work for traffic alerts, without you having to tell it - because it looks at where you stay for extended periods, and what time of day. Siri has similar location information.

So if Poole council wanted to follow those parents to see where they lived today, they really wouldn't have to send someone out in a car - the part that was determined an invasion of their privacy. They'd just have to get access to the data that GCHQ is already collecting from phone companies and google et al - either directly, or in partnership with the NSA. And read their email. And their text messages. And their search history. And the same for those they're associated with. And the data from number plate recognition average-speed cameras replacing static speed cameras that's retained for 6 years by the police.

My, it's a good thing our politicians don't support Big Data or its use by more and more parts of national and local government, our intelligence services are restraining themselves to only gathering data about terrorists they have intel on, private companies don't retain huge amounts of data about us for their own uses to advertise to us, and police internal affairs departments are so efficient that there's never any bad apples who would say, spy on an ex girlfriend.

And you in the USA have nothing to be concerned about dirty politics, dirty cops, bad apples, or state oppression of people that are causing them problems, or companies doing the same, because you're the land of the Free and Brave and never implement what privacy invasions the UK have been trail blazing.

Be calm, citizen. We know where you live, where you work, what you say and search online, where you go, who you meet, how you drive and when you do it. But it's for keeping you safe from the bad men. We promise.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:37 PM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


[It's fine to talk about whether the ACLU's scenario is plausible. But let's not do the whole "other things are more important so it's wrong to care about this" thing in here. And please, no metadiscussion in-thread.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:48 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


(using data from cell phone and license plate readers as well as other sources)

As portrayed in the above linked article there is something like a 1:1 ratio between the person being surveiled and the surveillor. The data harvest methods will only be employed as long as the algorithms yield the intended result. Catching drunk drivers is easier than than the methods indicated in the article - go out on a weekend night and you can see them everywhere.

I think it is a little more insidious than that - and the article is a bit simplistic. They, the people who are looking at your location and communication patterns, are fishing with a big net - except the net is designed to let the big fish out and catch the medium sized fish. The data harvest methods will only be employed as long as the algorithms yield the intended result; collecting careless criminals and seeming to be interested in something approximating law and order or protection from terrorists - or something.

You will still be able to score drugs because there is a larger financial interest. If you are savvy you will still be able to import drugs. If you are even more savvy you will be a banker who benefits from importing drugs but has plausible deniability.

Hi NSA. Eat shit.

David Anderson.
137 Carondelet Apt. 302
New Orleans LA 70130

(Like I need to tell you)
posted by vapidave at 12:10 AM on December 10, 2013


This tells an untrue story and does not address the actual issues under discussion.

Sounds like they have a lot in common with the NSA.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:14 AM on December 10, 2013


This tells an untrue story and does not address the actual issues under discussion.

What it describes is what is possible, rather than what is probable, just looking at the technology already available to companies like Google and law enforcement agencies. That's an important story to tell, to make people aware of just how much of your life could be logged without your knowledge or consent.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:39 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


This kind of data also allows you to make very interesting predictions about the health of companies based on employees' behavior...useful for knowing whether to Buy or Sell.
posted by jet_manifesto at 12:41 AM on December 10, 2013


I also think it's important to concentrate on what Big Data makes it possible to do as well as what governments and companies are likely to do with it, as with IT we've seent hat once the capability of doing something is there, it will be used, whether or not it makes sense to use it.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:45 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


But... who leaves the gps in their phone turned on all the time?
posted by fshgrl at 12:51 AM on December 10, 2013


But... who leaves the gps in their phone turned on all the time?

The current system doesn't require your GPS to be on. It uses cell phone tower triangulation to provide almost as accurate a location as GPS. As long as your phone is accepting calls, various agencies can track your location with ease.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:04 AM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Getting middle class folks riled up is a good thing. Allowing that energy to be channeled into jackasses like the alleged 'libertarians' like Ron and Rand Paul (neither of them is a libertarian, by definition) is the problem.

Last I checked, real reform requires the support of the middle class. I know y'all somehow have confused between middle class and the ruling, ownership class. But they aren't the same, regardless of similar skin tones. Fail to grasp that fact at your peril. Ignoring that is why the name Rand Paul even enters this discussion. Maintaining the division amongst the lower classes is the rationale behind a lot of the crap about which we complain!
posted by Goofyy at 1:05 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


What it describes is what is possible, rather than what is probable, just looking at the technology already available to companies like Google and law enforcement agencies.

Hell, as a geographer/programmer, I could put together a pretty "interesting" dossier on pretty much anyone using some leaked data and the tools currently on my laptop. I mean, they teach you how to track bears in university geography programs and it's way easier to track humans than bears.

I'd have to be a mercenary, amoral asshole to do that, but there doesn't appear to be a shortage of those, nor of people willing to ignore, out of either profound technological ignorance or fatal optimism, how easy it actually is to do.
posted by klanawa at 1:06 AM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ice Cream Socialist: "And we are supposed to trust the people who's livelihoods depend on this surveillance to give us a straight answer on what it has actually accomplished?

Of course there's an explanation, but first, attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front.
"

Too busy reading about the war with Eastasia.
posted by Samizdata at 1:38 AM on December 10, 2013


So I can just leave my phone at home and the NSA won't know I'm out? Sweet
posted by fistynuts at 1:53 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: This tells an untrue story and does not address the actual issues under discussion.

Well, it's only untrue because it's a fictional story based on what we've found out about the NSA's programs so far. It's as untrue as any other fictional story.

"We now know that the NSA is collecting location information en masse. As we’ve long said, location data is an extremely powerful set of information about people. To flesh out why that is true, here is the kind of future memo that we fear may someday soon be uncovered"

They're not saying that this is happening right this minute. They literally said that they fear that it may happen someday, and that we do know the NSA has the ability to do this. They're using a fictional story to explain why location data is extremely powerful. I don't think that's so bad.
posted by gucci mane at 1:58 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hypothetical situations are used all the time in courtroom legal reasoning. In fact, they are the bread and butter of Supreme Court arguments that project the potential consequences of a considered outcome as a basis for decision. ("If this statute is upheld, then . . ."). Hypothetical projection is the very essence of the concept of precedent.

Hypothetical scenarios have a venerated place in legal education.

Just come straight out and call it a "conspiracy theory." That's the time honored way for government lackeys to dismiss civil rights concerns.
posted by spitbull at 2:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [22 favorites]


If you've a murder suspect then DNA evidence might nail down the case, well DNA evidence has around a 1% false positive fate. If you've a suspect-less murder, then searching a DNA database routinely turns up erroneous positive hits. You blow through the denominator on that 1% almost instantly. ACLU has simply observed here that driving behavior sounds far worse.

In principle, any seriously imprecise database search should taint all evidence derived, preventing it from being used to provide probable cause. Imho, we need "statistically literate" agencies separate separate from law enforcement that work towards harm reduction rather than convicting criminals.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:22 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"reasonable suspicion" is a lesser constraint than "probable cause", IIRC?

And also, IIRC, they used 'suspicion' in the ACLU's demo.

Hrrrrmmmm...
posted by mikelieman at 3:47 AM on December 10, 2013


Telling a hypothetical story which extrapolates from known facts isn't just acceptable. It's how we do business on this planet, pardner. You know, science, medicine, politics, religion, seduction...

And, as has been referenced above, we wouldn't even be having this conversation without George Orwell.

I think this is a creditable effort by the ACLU to get people to think about how all those stories in the press apply to them,quotidian and personal. Which is what needs to happen if we're to get our hands back on the controls, which is what we need to do.

Could have done it better? Yes, sure, and I very much hope someone does. An interactive app that works on your own data - and, hey, with those of your friends with whom you choose to share - would be deliciously and dangerously closer to the truth. A brilliant movie where Joe Soak ends up on Death Row because he turned left one day instead of right, not through evil persecution but because of bureaucracy in blind thrall to an imperfect yet powerful machine? I'd watch that.

But this is a web page, and a good one at that.
posted by Devonian at 4:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the use of badly-formatted, 1990's Netscape-style layout intentional?
posted by mittens at 4:25 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again if you blow your statistics the moment you hit a database containing enough people, ala the birthday paradox.

We might eventually eliminate law enforcement almost entirely through "statistics police". Justice requires that data mining be used only for harm reduction, suggestions, etc., not finding suspects for criminal proceedings.

"We've detected you present an elevated risk of spousal abuse, rape, etc. based upon your spending habits, diet, etc." should be accompanied by serious efforts to help the person to not commit the crime. Just waiting around for the crime should as not a sensible use of law enforcement resources, basically an "entrapment lite".
posted by jeffburdges at 4:31 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid that the pre-crime argument laid out by the ACLU here is probably a non-starter. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who are willing to trade liberty for imagined security. Plenty of people will read this account and think to themselves, "This is great. I can't wait! Jack deserves it!"

The part that really keeps me up at night is how this kind of access to private information could be abused, not just institutionally, but by individuals like the FPP we had last month about cops closing rank to cover up domestic abuse murders. Imagine that you're the abuse survivor that manages to leave your abuser, only to be stalked by that person with these technologies.

Imagine the power of a child predator that gains access to these kinds of systems, either through work or through hacking. Foreign governments could hack their way into our citizen tracking systems as well and use this information to affect our democratic process. I mean, our fricking military drone systems have been hacked and hit with spyware and it's hard to imagine a system that should have greater IT security than one that literally fires missiles. Not to mention how criminal gangs could infiltrate or buy their way into having access to this information.

Even the most pro-authority, police trusting individuals should be scared to death about how these systems can be abused. The US Government could be staffed with the purest of heart angels and there are still ways that your life and freedom are at risk.
posted by Skwirl at 4:35 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does anyone else fear like we're in a transition from being citizens of a sovereign country to subjects of a corporate fiefdom? I catch myself feeling a desire to please Google by leaving certain tracking and marketing options turned on in hopes of gaining greater status in the society to come.
posted by fraxil at 4:51 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is the use of badly-formatted, 1990's Netscape-style layout intentional?

They're simulating a gov't-built system.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:24 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you're thinking "...but hey this gives all kinds of stupid, illogical conclusions!" that's part of the point.
posted by odinsdream at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2013


fistynuts: "So I can just leave my phone at home and the NSA won't know I'm out? Sweet"
In the court case against German sociologist Andrej Holm, who was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism in 2007, the prosecutor's case was partly built on the "conspiratorial nature" of Mr. Holm leaving his cell phone at home when we went to meet his co-defendants.
posted by brokkr at 6:02 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]




Ha, I thought the same thing, mittens.

Although I'd be shocked if it wasn't mocked up using PowerPoint.
posted by graphnerd at 6:25 AM on December 10, 2013


Does anyone else fear like we're in a transition from being citizens of a sovereign country to subjects of a corporate fiefdom? I catch myself feeling a desire to please Google by leaving certain tracking and marketing options turned on in hopes of gaining greater status in the society to come.

It's funny, I read Jennifer Government a few years back and had no idea I'd be living in the damn thing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:37 AM on December 10, 2013


The scenario is non-factual. I think they should stick to the facts. This narrative should not form the basis for anyone's opinion, because the things depected in the hypothetical aren't what people need to be informed about.

The reason we don't don't take any steps, as a society, to protect ourselves from people setting us on fire with the power of their minds is that pyrokinesis doesn't exist.

This article is, in effect, pointing out that pyrokinesis does now, in fact, exist, and that maybe our society should take note that these sort of abuses are now possible.
posted by straight at 7:36 AM on December 10, 2013


So, the article starts with 2 premises:

- the NSA is collecting location information en masse
- location data is an extremely powerful set of information about people.

It then goes on to show how powerful that set of information can be, something that is extremely germane to these discussions. It's also something we've had way too little of.

There's no question about these facts:

- the government is collecting this data
- the government has repeated lied about what they collect
- the government has repeated lied about how they use what they collect
- the government has repeated lied about the extent of oversight on these powers
- this data can be used in ways people have no idea are possible

It's not straw man, slippery slope, or tin-foil-hat thinking to say: Here's some examples of what's possible with the data the government is collecting.

Such power, at the very least, needs to have strong oversight. Maybe I just don't have the faith and trust in authority that others do; but I wouldn't trust anyone with this kind of power to not abuse it.
posted by Bort at 7:57 AM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


But... who leaves the gps in their phone turned on all the time?

::raises hand::

If I need to actually use Google Maps, I don't want to wait 10 minutes for the damned thing to figure out which part of the planet I am on. If I have to enable GPS, this is invariably what happens.

(Despite the fact that the NSA probably knows where my phone is before my phone does.)
posted by Foosnark at 9:12 AM on December 10, 2013


posted by clockzero at 0:00 on December 10

Eponysterical! for the folks in central time!
posted by hwyengr at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


you get your probable cause when you observe joe blow breaking a traffic law or driving erratically - that some god awfully huge database told you that he'd be on a certain road and he had been likely drinking isn't going to enter into the case, although that's pretty damn disturbing

i can just imagine the reply of a typical cop to this, though - "i don't have time to mess with your political target - in the time i'm screwing around waiting for him to show up, i could be making a sure bust by just parking outside the bar ..."

as a method of catching drunk drivers, this is overkill
posted by pyramid termite at 1:29 PM on December 10, 2013


As a database geek my interest in this mock-up is that it supposes the existence of something I have heard does not exist, namely a way for all these databases to be queried together. A rough analogy would be to say that some databases, maybe county prosecutors and child protective services were in English, while others, like medical records, were in French. More databases, like loyalty cards, more languages.

I read an article last year that described some guy at NSA having 3 separate machines running on his desk because some of the databases would only work with certain OS versions. The databases can't talk to each other. Until they can we still have some measure of "security through obscurity."

I hope this gets people talking and thinking about the issue because we have a window of time here to stop it before it happens. Major legislation needs to be written. The databases already exist. They aren't going away.

There is great economic advantage in unifying the data, in addition to the political or social advantage. Google says right up-front that they want to collect and make searchable all the world's data. Some people find that creepy but no one worries that Google will send a drone to blow them up. The problem is that if Google can do it then so can a government.

We have to control the connections between the various databases. Maybe require probable cause before a judge to add each additional data source? We can't stop the data piling up. It's time someone with some knowledge starts lobbying Congress on the issue. I worry that the issue is too esoteric to get any traction until after The Convergence happens. By then it will probably be too late. Privacy will truly become a thing of the past and this article will be looking prescient, if rudimentary.
posted by irisclara at 4:45 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


quote: as a method of catching drunk drivers, this is overkill

If you think this is about catching drunk drivers, you're missing the point.

As a method of catching those people who are "destroying society", it's brilliant. You know, those __________ . [ liberals | conservatives | abortion activists | anti-abortion activists | terrorists | environmentalists | union activists | free speech activists | gun rights activists | demonstrators | single moms | Arabs | Jews | brown people | privacy activists | people insufficiently enthusiastic about being a worker in our glorious capitalist paradise whose Corporations only have our best interests at heart | those dangerous teenagers, one of whom happens to be your kid | etc. ]

Just keep a list of people that are hated by those in power, especially ones who are leaders, charismatic, or just talk a lot about things you don't like, and as soon as any one of them does anything that gives you probable cause for drunk driving or similar, swoop in and pick them up. Even better if you can also show them what you know about their family members and what probable cause you have on them. Your inconvenient person will be persuaded to change their opinions and actions right quick, and even inform on others they know who trust them.

Read up on East Germany under the Stasi if you want to know what that would be like. And if you think people in power couldn't find the money to hire some extra "special" police, you haven't been paying attention.

I really hope that people across the entire political spectrum will be able to see how bad that would be. One thing that unites all of us Americans, left and right: we love freedom. I think we need to be doing some more publicising of that core truth to counteract the excessively divisive stuff.
posted by the big lizard at 7:36 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]




not to minimize the terrible effects of police/facebook co operation but people planned protests successfully a long time before there was an internet
posted by pyramid termite at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2013


not to minimize the terrible effects of police/facebook co operation but people planned protests successfully a long time before there was an internet

Depends on your measure of 'success'. If you consider the success of protests for civil rights, before the Nixon Administration, I would consider that a success.

But the argument can be made that since the surveillance/infiltration infrastructure of the government got institutionalized, the ability to organize effectively has been curtailed.
posted by mikelieman at 3:52 AM on December 16, 2013


But... who leaves the gps in their phone turned on all the time?

The cell phone can almost always be tracked to between 100m-300m of accuracy triangulating off of cell phone towers (part of the e911 system). If the government wants to monitor a region more closely they can setup temporary cell towers which will allow much better triangulation.
posted by humanfont at 4:36 AM on December 16, 2013


Read up on East Germany under the Stasi if you want to know what that would be like.

Merkel compared NSA to Stasi in heated encounter with Obama
posted by homunculus at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


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