Identifying “Troubled Individuals” Through Mass Surveillance

““Suppose you know there’s a threat to the president when he is visiting, say, Texas. Through information obtained by the National Security Agency, we have the tools to go through huge quantities of data obtained from that area,” said professor Mathieu Guidere of the University of Geneva.

How? “The computer system detects resentment in conversations through measurements in decibels and other voice biometrics,” he said. “It detects obsessiveness with the individual going back to the same topic over and over, measuring crescendos.”

As for written transmissions scrutinized by the computer program, it can detect the same patterns of fixation on specified subjects…”

The above quote is not a bit of post-Snowden NSA cheerleading. In fact, it predates the Snowden leaks by three years!

For one, it illustrates how most of what Snowden revealed wasn’t actually all that secret. More disturbingly, it makes it clear exactly what exactly is going on with all this mass surveillance data.

The point is not just, as the media (even the Snowden media) commonly insinuate, to create a massive database that XKEYSCORE-wielding analysts can search at a whim. (If only to find nudie pics and LOVEINT.)

Rather, the problem is much more serious and disturbing — create computer algorithms which can monitor and surveill instead of having people do the work.

As the saying goes, “trust the computer, the computer is your friend.” After all, a society run by The Computer would be far more just and equitable, with each giving to The Computer in accordance with his ability and recieving in accordance with The Computer’s estimation of his needs.

But this isn’t just some semi-sarcastic conspiratorial speculation based on old games and the world of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.”

Rather… let me put it this way. To err and corrupt and lie and cheat and steal is human, but it looks like the NSA has concluded that to push things beyond the limits of moral conscience requires a computer…

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