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

About 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.

View Website
View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Comics
Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery  Ok, ok – I understand most of you are saying disaster recovery (DR) is still a critical aspect of running any type of operations. After all – we need to secure our future operations in case of disaster. Sure – that is still the case but things are changing – fast. There are…

Choosing IaaS or a Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Provider?

Choosing IaaS or a Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Provider?

There is a Difference – So Stop Comparing We are all familiar with the old saying “That’s like comparing apples to oranges” and though we learned this lesson during our early years we somehow seem to discount this idiom when discussing the Cloud. Specifically, IT buyers often feel justified when comparing the cost of a…

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And Virtual Reality This is a term I created (Virtual Immersion). Ah…the sweet smell of Virtual Immersion Success! Virtual Immersion© (VI) an extension/expansion of Virtual Reality to include the senses beyond visual and auditory. Years ago there was a television commercial for a bathing product called Calgon. The tagline of the commercial was Calgon…

Connecting With Customers In The Cloud

Connecting With Customers In The Cloud

Customers in the Cloud Global enterprises in every industry are increasingly turning to cloud-based innovators like Salesforce, ServiceNow, WorkDay and Aria, to handle critical systems like billing, IT services, HCM and CRM. One need look no further than Salesforce’s and Amazon’s most recent earnings report, to see this indeed is not a passing fad, but…

Two 2017 Trends From A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Two 2017 Trends From A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Reaching For The Stars People who know me know that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I recently had the opportunity to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While I won’t give any spoilers away for the few who haven’t seen the movie yet, I do want to mention a couple of trends from…

The Cloud Is Not Enough! Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions

The Cloud Is Not Enough! Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions

Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions Running a cloud server is no longer the novel trend it once was. Now, the cloud is a necessary data tier that allows employees to access vital company data and maintain productivity from anywhere in the world. But it isn’t a perfect system — security and performance issues can quickly…

Ending The Great Enterprise Disconnect

Ending The Great Enterprise Disconnect

Five Requirements for Supporting a Connected Workforce It used to be that enterprises dictated how workers spent their day: stuck in a cubicle, tied to an enterprise-mandated computer, an enterprise-mandated desk phone with mysterious buttons, and perhaps an enterprise-mandated mobile phone if they traveled. All that is history. Today, a modern workforce is dictating how…

What the Dyn DDoS Attacks Taught Us About Cloud-Only EFSS

What the Dyn DDoS Attacks Taught Us About Cloud-Only EFSS

DDoS Attacks October 21st, 2016 went into the annals of Internet history for the large scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that made popular Internet properties like Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify and Box inaccessible to many users in the US. The DDoS attack happened in three waves targeting DNS service provider Dyn, resulting in a total of about…