Nov 03 2013
Even if folks like Google, Microsoft and Facebook weren’t mining every bit that flows across their networks, there’s a number of companies out there that are building the tools to let government agencies and law enforcement organizations to spy. Companies like NICE, Bright Planet and 3i:Mind are probably just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to companies who see a profit to be made in the monitoring and spying space.
I’m a bit torn when it comes to products like these that make it easy for LEO and other state actors to monitor the public. On one hand, these are valuable tools for catching criminals. On the other, they create a long term record of everything a protestor or dissident does, something that’s begging to be abused down the line. And just because it’s not making national news doesn’t mean there aren’t already examples of exactly this sort of thing happening.
I find Bright Planet’s product, BlueJay to be at least slightly amusing in that it’s basically just a Twitter search engine that looks for people who are stupid enough to tweet about the crimes they’ve committed or are planning to commit. Why a police department couldn’t do something like this on the cheap I don’t know, but I hope that this isn’t that expensive of a product.
As long as there’s a way to make a buck from monitoring the public, someone will do it. I’m sure there’s a lot of internal justification and arguments for these products that goes on, just as I’m sure that some of these companies know their products will be used and abused for purposes they weren’t meant for. I’m just hoping that as the companies build the tools, they take in mind the need for checks and balances to track the usage of their tools and make catching the abusers possible.