Big Brother is watching you. Sadly, most people don’t realize how extensive the surveillance grid has now become. As you drive to work or to school, license plate readers are systematically tracking where you travel. In major cities, thousands of highly advanced security cameras (many equipped with facial recognition technology) are monitoring your every move. If authorities detect that you are doing something suspicious, they can quickly pull up your criminal, financial and medical records. Of course if they want to dig deeper, your phone and your computer are constantly producing a treasure trove of surveillance data. Nothing that you do on either one of them is ever private.
In the past, compiling all of that information would take a great deal of time. But now tech giants such as Microsoft, Motorola, Cisco and Palantir are selling “fusion systems” to governments all over the planet. These “fusion systems” can instantly integrate surveillance data from thousands of different sources, and this has totally transformed how law enforcement is conducted in many of our largest cities.
Arthur Holland Michel is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and he was given a tour of a “fusion system” that is used by the city of Chicago called Citigraf…
He clicked “INVESTIGATE,” and Citigraf got to work on the reported assault. The software runs on what Genetec calls a “correlation engine,” a suite of algorithms that trawl through a city’s historical police records and live sensor feeds, looking for patterns and connections. Seconds later, a long list of possible leads appeared onscreen, including a lineup of individuals previously arrested in the neighborhood for violent crimes, the home addresses of parolees living nearby, a catalog of similar recent 911 calls, photographs and license plate numbers of vehicles that had been detected speeding away from the scene, and video feeds from any cameras that might have picked up evidence of the crime itself, including those mounted on passing buses and trains. More than enough information, in other words, for an officer to respond to that original 911 call with a nearly telepathic sense of what has just unfolded.