I saw a funny clip of comedian Lewis Black on the Daily Show the other day. When discussing Microsoft’s new Kinect system that can interpret user expressions and even skin changes, Lewis raised a middle finger, and told Microsoft to “F* off”. Then, when a follow up clip showed that some guy built a robot that determine when a person needed beer refill, and pour beer for that person, based on Kinect system’s computer vision, Lewis sarcastically but humbly apologized to Microsoft, and said, any amount of privacy is worth sacrificing, if you can get a robot to pour me a beer.
Then, I thought today, hey, why couldn’t NSA use their cyber-snooping for something actually useful?
For example, if that PRISM is so powerful and so useful, why is the “No Fly List” still so screwed up?? http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/10/left-behind-by-no-fly-list/
That story from last year, 2012, was about a military personnel’s husband, (and also an ex-military contractor), who got booted off a flight to Japan, and got stuck in Hawaii, because he got put on the infamous “No Fly List” in mid-air flying from US mainland to Hawaii.
Now, I’m not much of an expert in US government data, but I’m pretty sure that military personnels’ records (including most of their spouses’) are already accessible by the US government computers. No privacy issues there. And YET, whatever blackhole of a system they are using, they still couldn’t tell that some US soldier’s husband is NOT a terrorist!!
The infamous (and some what forgotten) “NO Fly List”, is yet another example of government Secrecy gone nuts. You can get put on the LIST, without knowing about it, until you get stuck somewhere, and then you don’t know who to talk to to get yourself off the LIST! (It’s grown now to over 20,000 names, with at least 500-600 American citizens, but still a short list).
So, some have defended SECRECY like PRISM program as useful to catch terrorists. OK, that’s a bit vague, but I’m willing to see the evidence and give PRISM a chance.
So, here is my simple challenge:
If PRISM was designed to track down terrorists, then let it clean up the “No Fly List”.
Surely, with all that data PRISM has access to, it should be able to tell that when some guy is going to board a plane that he actually is some US military personnel’s husband!
There you go, a “pour me a beer” simple test for PRISM. I won’t actually ask that PRISM catch a real terrorist and show the public (that’s somewhat more difficult), but I think my test is pretty fair: Do something simple and useful with that data.
If PRISM can do it, then maybe it deserves another chance. (Then, maybe we can see if PRISM actually could catch a terrorist).
If PRISM can’t even clean up a short list of 20,000, so that no innocent people are stuck at an airport wondering why their names are even on the LIST, then obviously US government’s access to all that private information is just useless and pointless.