Everyone knows that the government is harvesting and storing every phone, text, and email message Americans send. Which makes sense because you never know when your 96 year-old grandmother is going to get bored with doing crossword puzzles and become a terrorist.
Investigating “bad guys” still involves human decision making. To read the content of a message, a guy from the NSA goes before a FISA court judge and endures a tough, law-based grilling. The exchange probably goes something like this:
NSA guy: “We think this guy is a terrorist, Your Honor.”
Judge: “Is he dark-skinned?”
NSA guy: “Probably.”
Judge: “Okay, proceed.”
Recently I read about an enhanced approach to this surveillance. A mega-corporation is developing a software-based method to automatically act on “threats.” Basically, computers would scan messages and, when suspicious keywords and suspicious contacts creates a suspicious pattern, the computer would act of behalf of the humans doing the surveillance. It’d place a hold on your bank account, put you on a no-fly list, dispatch agents to question you, etc.
You can see where this is heading. Some frat guy is gonna go on Facebook and post: “Dude, I’m gonna bomb this test today.” A computer algorithm will kick in and start searching all his Facebook friends. It’ll find a post by another frat brother reading:”Yo, the Taco Party rocked, I just dropped the biggest bomb!!”
At which point a computer will determine that the frat house is a terrorist safe-house. All members’ bank accounts will be frozen. And a group of campus police officers will be dispatched. Formerly real cops who got fired for anger-management issues, they’ll storm the house, picturing themselves as Keifer Sutherland in the show 24 Hours. And they’ll shoot some drunk, emaciated pledge who’s cleaning the floor with a toothbrush.
Yeah, handing security over to mega-corporations and computers is a great idea. Just ignore the fact that Microsoft is still patching up problems with Windows however many years later.