3 min read

Why Prism Is The Right Investment

Let's not get distracted as a nation from the real problem: our sorry state of analytics.
Here's what scares me ...

If the government wanted to snoop on you, it wouldn't need state-of-the-art predictive analytics. It wouldn't need the world's top minds to innovate around how to find needles in the big data haystack. It wouldn't even need any tech developed after the 1890s. It could just get a wiretap order from any judge and then give some much-needed overtime to that poor guy trapped in the '70s who's sweating it out in the flowered van outside your house.

If you want to fix a problem, fix everything wrong with that last sentence.

The right conversation to have as a nation -- between now and when Skynet achieves self-awareness -- is how to balance our civil liberties with emerging technologies that allow law enforcement officials to deal with the turduckens of data that they have to eat through.

The possibility of another attack doesn't scare me. It's inevitable, and that's not Dick Cheney talking (I wish he wouldn't). That's statistics.

What scares me is that the polemics around Prism will distract the nation from our sorry state of analytics, the craptastic tools that we hand to our police and intelligence communities. If we're not willing to invest in the most-promising and -sophisticated software tools and platforms, we might as well replace law enforcement with paramedics and drones -- the left's and right's answer to how to clean up the mess.

The civil liberties crowd, which I oddly consider myself a part of, needs to stop pretending to be outraged by Prism and spend that energy on evolving our standards to better account for technological advancement.

Neither side wins if the media freak show slows or stops the refinement of technologies without which our nation will continue to operate data blind.

Eyes wide open ...

I'm not trying to trap you in some difficult moral dilemma. There's no ticking bomb on a bus. Your mother isn't on that bus. And you don't have to choose whether to torture someone potentially innocent to save Mom.

Theoretical constructs are a waste of time. So, too, is the process of manually getting a known terrorist's phone records and then getting the records of everyone he called and so on and so on. And then manually constructing that picture.

Technology can and should help. And it doesn't have to trash civil liberties.

Let's quit trying to scare each other and figure out how.