Can Mass Surveillance Create A Harmonious Society?

Can Mass Surveillance Create A Harmonious Society?

Can Mass Surveillance Create A Harmonious Society?

A lot has been written recently about how big data can be used for illicit and unethical purposes – yet away from the world of NSA surveillance and Edward Snowden, one country is using it to create a safer and more harmonious society for its citizens.

Singapore is the country in question, and its big data policies have now become so successful that the west is using it as a model for how they could build an intelligence network if long-standing cultural ideals such as civil liberties and a right to privacy weren’t getting in the way.

The technology in question is called ‘Total Information Awareness’ (TIA) and was originally developed within the US by the ‘Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’ (DARPA) around the turn of the millenium. It originally worked by gathering as much information as possible from electronic records – emails, phone logs, Internet searches, airline reservations, hotel bookings, credit card transactions, medical reports, etc – and then scanning them for terrorist plots by using a predetermined set of scenarios.

peter-hoTIA was nominally mothballed in the US in 2003 due to massive public outcry about the way the experimental research mined huge amounts of American civilians’ information (though as we now know it was in fact splintered into smaller projects and put under the supervision of the NSA). Despite the domestic furore, Peter Ho – Singapore’s Permanent Secretary of Defence – visited DARPA, saw the TIA in action, and returned to his homeland inspired by audacity and scope of the system. Ho later recalled that he “was so impressed that by connecting a vast number of databases, that we could find the proverbial needle in the haystack”.

As the spectre of Islamist terrorism in South-East Asia grew in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings, Ho was convinced that he could put the system to good use in his home country. His chance to find out arrived less than four months later with the region-wide outbreak of the deadly SARS virus. The virus claimed thirty three lives, slowed the Singaporean economy to a crawl, and stretched emergency services to their limits.

The Singapore Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning (RAHS) program was established shortly after, with the explicit aim of preventing terrorist attacks and other nonconventional strikes. The government told its citizens they were using big data to aid national defence (a pitch that the city-state’s technology-hungry population loved), and they have never looked back.

In the ten years since its implementation RAHS has grown beyond Ho’s wildest dreams. All of Singapore’s national ministries and departments now use the system to plan and organise every aspect of governing the tiny country. Procurement cycles and budgets, economic forecasts, immigration policy, housing markets, and national education curriculums all get the RAHS treatment – there is even talk about expanding the plan to analyse various social media channels in an attempt to understand the nation’s mood about everything from government social programs to the potential for civil unrest.

The result is that the world’s third richest country (by GDP per capita) has become a laboratory for testing whether mass surveillance and technology can help to create a more harmonious society. It’s required a leap of faith from the country’s 3.8 million residents, but the results are overwhelming. The Singapore model is now so successful that there is no going back – an outcome that most western countries can only cast admiring glances at from afar.

What do you think? Would European and American civilians accept such intrusion if it dramatically improved their daily lives? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Follow Me!

Daniel Price

Daniel is a Manchester-born UK native who has abandoned cold and wet Northern Europe and currently lives on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. A former Financial Consultant, he now balances his time between writing articles for several industry-leading tech (CloudTweaks.com & MakeUseOf.com), sports, and travel sites and looking after his three dogs.
Follow Me!

2 Responses to Can Mass Surveillance Create A Harmonious Society?

  1. Perhaps a better question: Is it important to create a harmonious society?

    Or is it important enough to create a harmonious society to justify the use of mass surveillance?

    Another question, can a harmonious society be created without the use of mass surveillance, and the implicit curtailment of rights that go along with it?

    Before we go the route of mass surveillance we need, as a society, to answer these and other questions.

  2. “Harmony” for whom: our overlords? Surveillance must go hand-in-hand with security and inalienable human rights and freedoms. Harmony needs a little chaos.

Join Our Newsletter

Receive updates each week on news, tips, events, comics and much more...

Can I Contribute To CloudTweaks?

Yes, much of our focus in 2015 will be on working with other influencers in a collaborative manner. If you're a technology influencer looking to collaborate with CloudTweaks – a globally recognized leader in cloud computing information – drop us an email with “tech influencer” in the subject line.

What is the 12/12 Program?

This program is designed to better handle the thousands of requests we receive from people looking to submit articles. The 12/12 program is the commitment of 12 articles delivered over a 12-month period.  

Wait! What if I just want to submit one article?

Our popular pay as you go sponsorship program provides the flexibility to submit as you wish and is designed for all budgets.

Contributors

Ten Tips For Successful Business Intelligence Implementation

Ten Tips For Successful Business Intelligence Implementation

Ten Tips for Successful Business Intelligence Implementation The cost of Business Intelligence (BI) software goes far beyond the purchase price. Time spent researching, implementing, and maintaining your BI investment can snowball quickly and mistakes are often expensive. Your time is valuable – save it by learning from other businesses’ experiences. We’ve compiled the top ten

Knots And Cloud Service Providers

Knots And Cloud Service Providers

How Do These Two Compare? In Boy Scouts, I learned how to tie knots. The quickest knot you can tie is the slipknot. It’s very effective for connecting one thing to another via the rope you have. It was used in setting up tents, mooring boats to docks temporarily and lifting your food up into

What Ever Happened To Google Glass?

What Ever Happened To Google Glass?

What Ever Happened to Google Glass? It was supposed to be the next big thing in tech so where did it go? Last year you could not go anywhere without hearing about some insane new use for the product and now it seems to have vanished in a plume of smoke. A Lackluster Rollout Back

Posted on by

Big Data

To Have and Have Not: Big Data Initiatives In Developing Countries

To Have and Have Not: Big Data Initiatives In Developing Countries

Big Data Initiatives In Developing Countries The poor of the developing countries are becoming increasingly connected, to the point where they too are part of the Big Data revolution that’s happening across the globe. It didn’t come with laptops, though, as some supposed it would. Whereas it costs a fortune to connect broadband to a

Big Data In Your Garden: Initiatives For Better Understanding Nature

Big Data In Your Garden: Initiatives For Better Understanding Nature

Big Data in Your Garden Big Data and IoT initiatives are springing up all across the globe, making cities, protesters–and just about everything else–smarter. However, thus far there’s been little attention paid to the interactions between these bizarre technologies and living things other than humans. Biology, that is, human biology is one field where Big

Who Holds the Key to the City: Big Data and City Management

Who Holds the Key to the City: Big Data and City Management

Big Data and City Management Cities like New York, Madrid, and especially Rio de Janeiro are augmented with Big Data-powered initiatives that range from combating crime with predictive analytics (New York & Madrid) to providing real-time data for improved management. Although Big Data is no panacea and is mainly used in conjunction with a greater

Internet of Things

Where’s the Capital of the Internet of Things?

Where’s the Capital of the Internet of Things?

Where’s the Capital? We all know the capitals of fashion are London, New York and Paris, while the capital of film is Hollywood (or Bollywood!) – but what’s the new capital of the internet? Specifically, the internet of things? The answer – according to new research by Ozy – might surprise you. It’s not Tokyo, Seoul,

Smart Cities – How Big Data Is Changing The Power Grid

Smart Cities – How Big Data Is Changing The Power Grid

Smart Cities And Big Data As Anthony Townsend argues in his SMART CITIES, even though the communications industry has changed beyond recognition since its inception, the way we consume power has remained stubbornly anachronistic. The rules of physics are, of course, partially to blame, for making grid networks harder to decentralize, as opposed to communication

Aggregated News

Popular News Sources

Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the Human Wrist

Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the Human Wrist

It’s not just a thumb war, it’s total digit war The battle for the future of the human wrist entered a new phase on Monday after it was claimed that tech goliath Microsoft is planning to release its own wearable computer in the coming weeks.…Read the source article at The Register About Latest Posts Follow

Standards Organization ISO Takes on Cloud Computing Standards

Standards Organization ISO Takes on Cloud Computing Standards

Given the quality differences in different cloud services and issues of compatibility, ISO, the world’s best known standards body has issued two standards related to cloud computing…. Read the source article at Web Host Industry Review About Latest Posts Follow Me!Daniel PriceDaniel is a Manchester-born UK native who has abandoned cold and wet Northern Europe

IBM Paying $1.5 Billion to Shed Its Chip Division

IBM Paying $1.5 Billion to Shed Its Chip Division

IBM will pay $1.5 billion to Globalfoundries in order to shed its costly chip division. IBM will make payments to the chipmaker over three years, but it took a $4.7 billion charge for the third quarter when it reported earnings Monday. Read the source article at Mashable About Latest Posts Follow Me!Daniel PriceDaniel is a Manchester-born