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!
FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+Share

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...

Advertising Programs

Click To Find Out!

Sponsored Posts

Sponsored Posts

CloudTweaks has enjoyed a great relationship with many businesses, influencers and readers over the years, and it is one that we are interested in continuing. When we meet up with prospective clients, our intent is to establish a more solid relationship in which our clients invest in a campaign that consists of a number of

Popular

Top Viral Impact

Cloud Infographic: The Education Of Tomorrow

Cloud Infographic: The Education Of Tomorrow

Cloud Infographic: The Education Of Tomorrow  Online Education is a very exciting topic for many as it opens up many new doors and opportunities. We’ve touched on areas such as Massive Open Online Sources (MOOC) which provides tremendous levels of cloud based interconnectivity. We’ve taken a look into higher education,  the increased demand for online courses as well as

5 Ways The Internet of Things Will Drive Cloud Growth

5 Ways The Internet of Things Will Drive Cloud Growth

5 Ways The Internet of Things Will Drive Cloud Growth The Internet of Things is the latest term to describe the interconnectivity of all our devices and home appliances. The goal of the internet of things is to create universal applications that are connected to all of the lights, TVs, door locks, air conditioning, and

Cloud Infographic: Cloud Public, Private & Hybrid Differences

Cloud Infographic: Cloud Public, Private & Hybrid Differences

Many people have heard of cloud computing. There is however a tremendous number of people who still cannot differentiate between Public, Private & Hybrid cloud offerings.  Here is an excellent infographic provided by the group at iWeb which goes into greater detail on this subject. Infographic source: iWeb About Latest Posts Follow Me!Daniel PriceDaniel is

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 long term with CloudTweaks – a globally recognized leader in cloud computing information – drop us an email with “tech influencer” in the subject line.

Please review the guidelines before applying.

Whitepapers

Top Research Assets

HP OpenStack® Technology Breaking the Enterprise Barrier

HP OpenStack® Technology Breaking the Enterprise Barrier

Explore how cloud computing is a solution to the problems facing data centers today and highlights the cutting-edge technology (including OpenStack cloud computing) that HP is bringing to the current stage. If you are a CTO, data center administrator, systems architect, or an IT professional looking for an enterprise-grade, hybrid delivery cloud computing solution that’s open,

Public Cloud Flexibility, Private Cloud Security

Public Cloud Flexibility, Private Cloud Security

Public Cloud Flexibility, Private Cloud Security Cloud applications are a priority for every business – the technology is flexible, easy-to-use, and offers compelling economic benefits to the enterprise. The challenge is that cloud applications increase the potential for corporate data to leak, raising compliance and security concerns for IT. A primary security concern facing organizations moving