The news you're not supposed to know...

Austrian Economics: Understand Economics, Understand the World
The Century of the Self: The Untold History of Controlling the Masses Through the Manipulation of Unconscious Desires
The Disappearing Male: From Virility to Sterility

The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off
Operation Gladio: The Hidden History of U.S. Sponsored False Flag Terrorism in EuropeThe New American Century: The Untold History of The Project for the New American Century
Article posted Dec 27 2012, 5:24 PM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: Print

Open Source Intelligence and Crime Prevention

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Buried on page A25 of Thursday’s New York Times is a tiny story on what’s likely to become a big problem after the recent horrific mass shooting. According to the report, top intelligence officials in the New York City Police Department met on Thursday to explore ways to identify “deranged” shooters before any attack. One of these tactics would involve “creating an algorithm” to identify keywords in online public sources indicative of an impending incident. In other words, they seek to build an algorithm to constantly monitor Facebook and Twitter for terms like “shoot” or “kill.”

This is not a new idea. It’s part of what the defense and intelligence communities call “open source intelligence” or OSINT. And it can raise serious First Amendment concerns, especially when it’s used domestically and when it involves automated data mining by law enforcement agencies like the NYPD.

At the outset, it’s important to understand exactly what we’re talking about here. This is not tracking when police receive a tip that someone is posting public threats. Nor is it even a police officer taking it upon herself to scour for leads. Here, we’re talking about a computer at the NYPD automatically reading every post on a social networking site and flagging entries with certain words for police scrutiny. This raises numerous constitutional concerns, many obvious and some less so.

First, even when you’re talking about relatively sophisticated algorithms that, for instance, are able to distinguish between homonyms or polysemes (like “shoot” with a basketball versus a gun), you’re going to get a vast universe of false positives. Additionally, you’re also going to get true-false positives—people making dumb threats on their Facebook page as, for instance, a joke. To the extent these are “true threats” directed at an individual, they receive lesser First Amendment protection, but “true threats” are going to be a small subset of the vast amount of idiotic trolling that happens on social media on a daily basis. This problem presents an insurmountable administrative burden, not to mention the fact the digital dragnet will ensnare numerous innocent people.

Second, and aside from these practical concerns, we have a First Amendment right to be free from government monitoring, even when engaged in public activity. Just because an anti-war group meets in a church that is open to the public doesn’t mean the FBI should be able to spy on them. The same principle applies in the digital ether. The government should need a good reason—specific to a person—before it can go and monitor that person’s activity. Why? Because if we fear that one peaceful protest is being monitored, we fear they all will be. And, people who would otherwise engage in lawful protest won’t. It puts a big wet blanket on political discourse.

Third—and my colleague Mike German gets credit for this insight—when somebody gets snagged by these dragnets, it’s very difficult to clear the “cloud of suspicion.” Consider the case of Richard Jewell, the late security guard who was initially praised as a hero in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing and then became the prime suspect based, in part, on statements he made to the press. FBI agents, working under the profile of a “lone bomber” who planted the device only in order to heroically find it, reviewed Jewell’s television appearances and believed they matched. Although the investigation smacks of confirmation bias—agents seeing what they wanted to see—Jewell had great trouble escaping the cloud of suspicion. With an algorithm tracking everyone’s public statements on social media, take that problem and multiply it many-fold.

Finally, there is the very obvious problem that authorities are unlikely to uncover legitimately probative evidence of an impending shooting through automated OSINT. Put another way, it’s exceedingly rare—and I’m not aware of a case—where a mass murderer clearly announced his or her intention beforehand on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. Rather, automated OSINT will likely start zeroing in, as indicative of dangerous intent, on indications of mental instability, extreme political views or just weird thoughts. These all qualify as constitutionally protected speech, and, indeed, political speech is often said to receive the highest level of First Amendment protection. (I would say that to the extent that an individual does take to a Facebook wall to issue a credible threat, that should of course be reported.)

All of this is to say that automated OSINT, in addition to being constitutionally problematic, just won’t work. It will divert limited law enforcement resources; focus investigative activity on quacks more than dangerous individuals; and increase the risk that police will miss the true threat, made in private to a trusted confidante, which does deserves swift action to protect the public. It’s a bad idea.

Latest Big Brother/Orwellian
- FDA Says Tobacco Manufacturers Can No Longer Call Additive-Free & Natural Cigarettes Additive-Free & Natural
- Appeals Court Strikes Down Ruling Finding NSA Phone Records Collection Unconstitutional
- City of San Jose Looking To Attach Automatic License Plate Readers To Garbage Trucks
- Nebraska Teachers Sign Pledge Promising To Propagandize Students
- Wisconsin High School To Randomly Drug Test Students
- Chicago, Los Angeles Police Departments Have Been Using 'Stingrays On Steroids' For Over A Decade
- Study Shows More Americans Than Ever Support Banning Books
- EU Printing Comics Full Of Pro-EU Propaganda For Children

Comments Add Comment Page 1 of 1

Posted: Dec 28 2012, 1:23 AM

74235 Algorithm search this: E-A-T S-H-I-T!

Add Comment


Verification *
Please Enter the Verification Code Seen Below

Please see our About Page, our Disclaimer, and our Comments Policy.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which in some cases has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available for the purposes of news reporting, education, research, comment, and criticism, which constitutes a 'fair use' of such copyrighted material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the DMCA and other applicable intellectual property laws. It is our policy to remove material from public view that we believe in good faith to be copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any of our members or users.

About Us - Disclaimer - Privacy Policy

Advanced Search


Remember Me
Forgot Password?

Cocaine Production Plummets After DEA Kicked Out of Bolivia - 08/28FDA Says Tobacco Manufacturers Can No Longer Call Additive-Free & Natural Cigarettes Additive-Free & Natural - 08/29This Cop Killed 6 People & Retired, Now He Trains Cops By Shocking Them When They Hesitate to Shoot - 08/29TSA Agent Forced College Student into Bathroom for 'Security Search' and Sexually Assaulted Her - 08/29Texas Town Fires Police Dept., Hires Private Citizens For Security -- Guess What Happened to Crime? - 08/28Appeals Court Strikes Down Ruling Finding NSA Phone Records Collection Unconstitutional - 08/29Jerry Seinfeld Hilariously Trolls Cops After they Shut Down his Son's Lemonade Stand - 08/28Police Make Instructional Video on How to Be Nice While they Rob You - 08/28

Man Follows Speeding Cop, Finds Out He Was Speeding To Buy PeanutsMission Creeps: Homeland Security Agents Confiscate Women's Panties For 'Copyright Infringement'Cop Shoots Couple's Dog, Threatens Jail For Trying To Save Dog's LifeSWAT Team Shoots Teen Girl & Her Dog During Pot Raid On Wrong HomeDurham, NC Cop Testifies Faking 911 Calls To Enter Homes Is "Official Policy"Indiana Sheriff Says US A "War Zone" To Justify New MRAP Military VehicleTampa Cops Surveil Pot Dealer, Catch Him Selling Pot, Raid His Home & Kill Him"You Just Shot An Unarmed Man!": Witness Says Police Shot His Friend With His Hands Up