In our current age what you say, and what is said about you is now more likely than ever to land you in trouble with the law, or disqualify you for employment, promotion, government benefits or other opportunities. Almost gone is the age of personel privacy, and freedom from scrutiny by governmental authorities. While you may not be concerned as to wether or not The N.S.A. is keeping tabs on you. On the smaller micro level, you could soon be subject to technological spying by your local Police Department.
Perhaps the most controversial and revealing technology is the threat-scoring software Beware. Fresno is one of the first departments in the nation to test the program.
As officers respond to calls, Beware automatically runs the address. The searches return the names of residents and scans them against a range of publicly available data to generate a color-coded threat level for each person or address: green, yellow or red.
Exactly how Beware calculates threat scores is something that its maker, Intrado, considers a trade secret, so it is unclear how much weight is given to a misdemeanor, felony or threatening comment on Facebook. However, the program flags issues and provides a report to the user.
Rob Nabarro, a Fresno civil rights lawyer… said the fact that only Intrado — not the police or the public — knows how Beware tallies its scores is disconcerting. He also worries that the system might mistakenly increase someone’s threat level by misinterpreting innocuous activity on social media, like criticizing the police, and trigger a heavier response by officers.
“A police call is something that can be very dangerous for a citizen.”
It now matters if you are labeled by the mental health system with a “condition.” It also matters what you say on Facebook to aloof “friends” – the mere suggestion of wrong-doing counts towards your score as a threat to the system.Not only has your permanent record been kept and used against you, but the informal chatter and “keywords” that fill up the spaces of life previously reserved for leisure and private life is now fair game for law enforcement “threat assessment.”
For some time now, police have followed up on threats of violence posted in comment threads, particular if they threaten violence against a high profile politician or celebrity.But now, they are armed with the “buzz” of background minutia about a person, too – which may or may not legitimately characterize intended criminal and illicit behavior. Guilt by association prevails. Like so many other surveillance technologies, they scan in the background, with little or no presence in the lives of the people it watches.
One thing is certain: this is the near-future world of “Minority Report” has arrived on scene. It is already in its first phase of life, and most of the public still hasn’t imagined its form or capabilities.
The government they fear has dawned upon us, but its face is not the familiar one of the opposing political camp, or the aspiring totalitarian despot. It is a hive army of technological and bureaucratic soldiers, come to eat out our substance and the Declaration of Independence warned in the long-train of abuses.
The whisper campaign at its most dreadful. A world where a random police call could become a Gestapo nightmare. Where thought crimes are bred. Orwell, P.K.D., etc. were right (but what else is new?).