Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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Surveillance made easy

September 8, 2008Privacy

The New Scientist provides details on the latest surveillance in the UK--and the software used to analyse the data.

from the story:

"[T]he UK Home Office ...announced plans to give law-enforcement agencies, local councils and other public bodies access to the details of people's text messages, emails and internet activity. The move followed its announcement in May that it was considering creating a massive central database to store all this data, as a tool to help the security services tackle crime and terrorism...

"Once a person is being monitored, pattern-recognition software first identifies their typical behaviour, such as repeated calls to certain numbers over a period of a few months. The software can then identify any deviations from the norm and flag up unusual activities, such as transactions with an exotic bank, or contact with someone who is also under surveillance, so that analysts can take a closer look."


It's worth reading the entire article. One key point, which I stress in the book: Marketers have loads and loads of data about our patterns of driving, shopping, even shop-lifting. But the law enforcement agencies lack good statistical data on the behavior of terrorists. This makes building statistical models of them nearly impossible.

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