Connecting the dots for US, instead of THEM

September 3rd, 2008

Laura Margottini at the news service wrote the following:

Snoop software makes surveillance a cinch

“THIS data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time.”

So said the UK Home Office last week as it announced plans to give law-enforcement agencies, local councils and other public bodies access to the details of people’s text messages, emails and internet activity. The move followed its announcement in May that it was considering creating a massive central database to store all this data, as a tool to help the security services tackle crime and terrorism.

Meanwhile in the US the FISA Amendments Act, which became law in July, allows the security services to intercept anyone’s international phone calls and emails without a warrant for up to seven days. Governments around the world are developing increasingly sophisticated electronic surveillance methods in a bid to identify terrorist cells or spot criminal activity.

However, technology companies, in particular telecommunications firms and internet service providers, have often been criticised for assisting governments in what many see as unwarranted intrusion, most notably in China.

Now German electronics company Siemens has gone a step further, developing a complete “surveillance in a box” system called the Intelligence Platform, designed for security services in Europe and Asia. It has already sold the system to 60 countries.

According to a document obtained by New Scientist, the system integrates tasks typically done by separate surveillance teams or machines, pooling data from sources such as telephone calls, email and internet activity, bank transactions and insurance records. It then sorts through this mountain of information using software that Siemens dubs “intelligence modules”.

This software is trained on a large number of sample documents to pick out items such as names, phone numbers and places from generic text. This means it can spot names or numbers that crop up alongside anyone already of interest to the authorities, and then catalogue any documents that contain such associates.

Once a person is being monitored, pattern-recognition software first identifies their typical behaviour, such as repeated calls to certain numbers over a period of a few months. The software can then identify any deviations from the norm and flag up unusual activities, such as transactions with a foreign bank, or contact with someone who is also under surveillance, so that analysts can take a closer look.

Included within the package is a phone call “monitoring centre”, developed by the joint-venture company Nokia Siemens Networks.

However, it is far from clear whether the technology will prove accurate. Security experts warn that data-fusion technologies tend to produce a huge number of false positives, flagging up perfectly innocent people as suspicious.


New Scientist

Once again, ‘scientists’ (or in this case, a science writer) fails to connect the dots.

What is most amusing about this failure is that the article is about… connecting the dots!

We all know that everyone is separated by Six Degrees of Separation thanks to a recent thorough test of the theory.

Since this is true, that means that everyone, everywhere is Six Degrees of Separation away from a ‘criminal’. The only thing left to measure in a system like the Fusion Centers and this completely bogus software from Siemens is the level of criminality of the focus person.

This is absolutely the case because all people are connected, and so if you are going to investigate (violate) someone because they are two steps away from a ‘criminal’ you will have to assign a threat level to that person; everyone everywhere ‘knows’ or is ‘close to’ a ‘criminal’ and I put the word criminal in single quotes because what a criminal is or is not is highly variable.

The massively connected nature of people is the reason why these systems cannot possibly work. It also explains why there are an irrationally large number of people on the ‘terrorist’ watch list in the USA; if they are secretly using this software or something like it to see who is connected to who, they will find that everyone is connected to everyone, and everyone is a potential terrorist according to the software. That is why there are literally millions of people falsely listed as ‘potential terrorists’ in the USA. Just to be clear, I do not accept that there is such a thing as a ‘potential terrorist’ in the first place.

No one working with the systems has had the guts to stand up and say that the emperor has no clothes, and that it is impossible for this many people to all be potential terrorists. Eternal shame upon them.

The writer of this New Scientist article should know about Six Degrees of Separation, that it has very recently been demonstrated to be true, and she should have made the insight jump and use this to make the case that these ‘services’ cannot ever work and to explain why they should not be deployed.

If the terrorist threat is real, and you are doing this to try and catch terrorists, then these systems should not be used because they throw up too many false positives and put too many people into the system that have no relation to ‘the enemy’. This confusion would stop you from getting to the real bad guys and stopping what you are trying to stop. The Six Degrees factor makes it even worse, as you are bound to be putting everyone in the system since everyone ‘knows’ everyone. These systems are actually dangerous in the physical sense AND the moral sense.

It is clear that these systems should not be deployed because they do not help you do what you need to do. This is quite apart from the moral aspect of mass violation of innocent people. Guilt by Association is known by people who can use the Google to be an inductive form of fallacy:

An association fallacy is an inductive formal fallacy of the type hasty generalization or red herring which asserts that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another, merely by an irrelevant association. The two types are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association. Association fallacies are a special case of red herring, and can be based on an appeal to emotion.



Everyone who worked on this software will have been aware of all of this. They are selling software, and will have simply given the authorities who are computer and maths illiterates what they asked for. The question is, what is the real reason they want it in the first place.

It is clear that the people who ordered these systems are not interested in ‘terrorists’. They want this to use against enemy corporations, politicians that need to be shut down and every other nefarious thing you can imagine. Do you remember the arrest of the British executives for ‘gambling offences’ the USVISIT system and the passenger list data are being used not to stop ‘terrorists’ but to capture people, in this case, who are not even criminals at all.

That is what this is all about. Anyone who says otherwise is completely delusional. All the evidence points to this, and all the other evidence that no one wants to accept is the icing on the cake.

Do I have to actually type out that the ID Card and the NIR would be used as a key part of a guilt by association system? Oyster is already being used in this way; they have the swipes of all the Oyster cards at a certain time / location locus and then they investigate every one. You will be in BIG TROUBLE if purely by chance you were the passenger that swiped just before or after a criminal; the software would assume that you were traveling together since you were in such close proximity.

And this brings us to the final point in this post.

Once cash is banished from public transport, the only way to travel on it will be with Oyster. That means that they will be surveilling everyone by default, and the guilt by association will be used against you by default.

Now extend this to the cash you use every day to by anything.

Once cash is driven out of the marketplace, the same systems will be used universally; only much much worse.

Lets say that you pay a plumber to do some work for you, and that plumber did work on the black market. Everyone who paid him in the new Beast Money® would immediately be subject to investigation to see how they were connected to the black economy. This scenario is faulty of course, because in the cashless society, the state will extract its payments automatically and you will have no control over your money at all, never mind privacy.

The bottom line is that the engineers, architects, programmers, scientists and everyone who can make systems needs to have a moral code instilled in them so that no one will be willing to supply the mortar, or the bricks or the door hinges or anything else for the gas chambers. It takes a very small number of people to devise and deploy these systems and in the networked world, everyone everywhere can be involuntarily plugged into them and made to suffer, barring a massive, unprecedented revolt.

I fear that an appeal to high standards may fall on deaf ears.

We shall see.

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