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

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.
Daniel Price
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.

Technology Comics

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – FOG
The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Global Warming

Popular Archives

Cloud Infographic – The Future (IoT)

Cloud Infographic – The Future (IoT)

The Future (IoT) By the year 2020, it is being predicted that 40 to 80 billion connected devices will be in use. The Internet of Things or IoT will transform your business and home in many truly unbelievable ways. The types of products and services that we can expect to see in the next decade…

Forrester Releases Its “15 Emerging Technologies To Watch Before 2020” Report

Forrester Releases Its “15 Emerging Technologies To Watch Before 2020” Report

15 Emerging Technologies To Watch Before 2020 The cloud, big data, the internet of things, and wearable technology have all featured heavily in Forrester’s latest list of fifteen technologies to watch before 2020. It is becoming a reality for businesses that they need to adapt and change to an increasingly technologically-minded customer base. Traditional marketing…

Recent

New Cloud Security Certification In A Maturing Industry

New Cloud Security Certification In A Maturing Industry

New Cloud Security Certification Cloud security certification is getting a new dimension. At the RSA conference earlier this month the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and (ISC)² announced a new cloud security certification: Certified Cloud Security Professional, or CCSP for short. (ISC)² is most famous for its flagship certification: Certified Information Systems Security Professional or CISSP.…

Using Mobile Technology To Price, Quote and Engage Customers

Using Mobile Technology To Price, Quote and Engage Customers

Using Mobile Technology To Price, Quote and Engage Customers To remain competitive in the e-commerce age, companies are starting to recognize that one price does not fit all, and in fact, the marketplace demands a great deal of versatility. Individual consumers have experienced this when dealing with sophisticated B2C retailers such as Amazon, a company…

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – New Responsibilities

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – New Responsibilities

By Al Johnson Are you looking to supercharge your Newsletter, Powerpoint presentation, Social media campaign or Website? Our universally recognized tech related comics can help you. Contact us for information on our commercial licensing rates.  About Latest Posts Follow Me!Daniel PriceDaniel is a Manchester-born UK native who has abandoned cold and wet Northern Europe and…

NEWS

Smartphone Security More Important Than Ever Thanks To NFC Implants

Smartphone Security More Important Than Ever Thanks To NFC Implants

Smartphone Security More Important Than Ever When was the last time you spared a thought as to whether or not your smartphone is secure enough? Chances are, your security system doesn’t extend beyond a simple lock screen pattern or password. But it should. In fact, the security of your smartphone should be one of your…

Cloud Security Hottest Issue At RSA

Cloud Security Hottest Issue At RSA

Cloud Security Hottest Issue The integral integration of cyber security and cloud technology seemed to be the hottest issue at the busy RSA 2015 Conference in San Francisco. Interested parties packed security and cloud service booths for the duration of the conference. Several prominent publications covered the increased importance of securing their private information that’s…

Technology Sponsors

hp Logo CityCloud-PoweredByOpenstack-Bluesquare_logo_100x100-01
cisco_logo_100x100 vmware citrix100
Site 24x7 200px-KPMG

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading influencers in cloud computing, big data and internet of things (IoT) information. Our goal is to continue to build our growing information portal, by providing the best in-depth articles, interviews, event listings, whitepapers, infographics and much more.

CloudTweaks Comic Library

Advertising