September 23, 2007

Automated Targeting System is Big Brother

The Washington Post put up a very scary story yesterday. It turns out that the information collected by the DHS on travelers is much more extensive than previously expected. The first paragraph summarizes very well just how much traveling has become a threat to our expectations of civil liberties and to our rights as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights (depending upon interpretation):

The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

The last time I took a flight, I carried almost nothing. I did, however, carry my iPod and a couple of books. I don't believe there was any time at which the contents of my iPod or the titles of those books would have been seen by an employee of the TSA but they would certainly have known where I was going, whom I was going to see, and my purpose for travel. The fact this is all recorded and will remain on record for at least fifteen years is very disconcerting to me.

I can understand the arguments for such high degrees of surveillance. I simply don't accept them. This is not the society I want to live in, and I do not trust human beings to be free of corruption or vice. The latter is probably the most important lesson to be drawn from the efforts and writings of this nation's founding fathers.

Posted by josuah at September 23, 2007 6:48 PM UTC+00:00

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Author Profile PageTim Pepper says at September 25, 2007 8:57 PM

The thing that I don't like about this is that we (almost guaranteed but who knows what the secret gov't agencies are up to?) don't have the computer analytics for this automated and realtime. So we're making a system that allows us to find out what went wrong after the fact. And then we plug _that_ hole reactively The result is you're just in a game of chase that you're never going to win (eg:

Maybe someday we get the computers smart enough to accurately figure out that bad things are happening as they happen our before, but really that'd be some amazing tech and I don't see it happening any time soon. Even if it does...if people aren't complaining now, they'll be complacent and have forgotten about it when this is hypothetically available and as long we don't have habeas corpus it's a system begging for horrible abuses and utterly un-American.

Scary stuff.

Author Profile PageJosuah says at September 25, 2007 9:25 PM

Yeah. Unfortunately an arms race is what the current administration believes to be the best way of responding to any threat. If the attack vector is A, then don't let A happen again. Then when it becomes B, try and stop B. Video games are smarter than that now.

If we had more educated people in office, then we might see long-term solutions like those Ron Paul suggests should be discussed, instead of knee-jerk exercises of military power and righteous belief.

But even if you had the technology to do all these predictions correctly, you're looking at a society that is much closer to both thought-crime and social conformity (e.g. Minority Report, 1984, Equilibrium). A civilization of sheep will not survive, and I personally don't want to be a sheep.

There's that saying people always use, about disagreeing with someone but dying for that person's right to say it. Well, I think people need to start saying the same thing about the differences between people. Something along the lines of, I may consider you a subversive or a deviant, but I'll die for your freedom to be so. Doesn't really work right now considering just how much people like to dictate how other people live their lives.

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