Thursday, July 2, 2015

Eye in the Skynet Published in Foreign Affairs

Wikimedia Commons
Pictured: An Agent of the Chinese Government

Foreign Affairs just published an article of mine they've (cleverly) dubbed Eye in the Skynet: How Regimes Can Quell Social Movements Before they Begin.
It goes into detail about how authoritarian governments can (and quite possibly already do) use advances in data analytics to better monitor, analyze, and crush dissent before it has the chance to grow.
Though I don't mention it in the article, the title is especially appropriate considering that Chinese officials have actually used the term Skynet (apparently unironically) as the name for both their recent program to arrest allegedly corrupt officials who have fled overseas, as well as their nation-wide video surveillance program.
If you're just landing here from there and you're concerned about totalitarian regimes creating inescapable omniscient nightmare-states, don't worry! It gets worse.
As will be covered in the series Somebody Hears You, even democratic states have their own major issues with huge swathes of deeply personal data being collected by pathologically secretive private companies with all the transparency, oversight, and accountability of your typical black market bazaar. Indeed, much of the data they collect actually has shown up in explicitly criminal online markets for identity theft and fraud.
In addition to threatening the well-being of the people from whom it's been stolen, the porousness of personal data collection could pose a major national security threat in a new, more reliable ways to fight across the battlefield of hearts and minds.
As I've touched on previously and will elaborate upon in future articles, my proposal to mitigate these threats is to bring these bulk personal data transactions out of the shadows and into transparent data markets where the watchers can be much more easily watched.