My latest Guardian column "Surveillance: You can know too much," explains how collecting too much information on innocent people makes it harder to catch guilty ones:
At a certain point, data gathered to predict the weather overwhelms your capacity to add it to your calculations efficiently, resulting in ever-longer runtimes that give less accurate predictions. It's better to crunch the data needed to calculate tomorrow's weather in 10 minutes (and refine your guess twice an hour) than to shovel so much data into the hopper that you don't get tomorrow's forecast until next week.
The sweet spot lies somewhere between gathering too much information and gathering too little – and the secret to hitting that spot is intelligent, discriminating data-acquisition.
Take London: cover every square inch of the city with CCTVs and you'll get so much information that you'll never make any sense of it. Scotland Yard says that CCTVs help solve fewer than 3% of all crimes, while a study in San Francisco found that at best, criminals simply move out of camera range, while at worst they assume no one is watching.
Similarly, if you take fingerprints from every person who applies for a visa – or worse still, from every person in Britain who has to carry one of the proposed new biometric cards – you will fill the databases with chaff that slows down searches, generates endless false matches, and threatens everyone in the database with the worst kind of identity theft.
In 1996, in the midst of the Clinton administration’s attack on the Internet and cryptography, Grateful Dead lyricist and EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow sat down in Davos, Switzerland, where he’d been addressing world leaders on the subject of the Internet and human rights, and wrote one of net-culture’s formative documents: The Declaration of Independence […]
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is hiring four new staffers: a criminal defense staff attorney, a technology generalist and two new activists (here’s what life is like for EFF activists).
The Come Back With a Warrant” doormat is an American classic (I prefer my suburban take on the motif).
Light used to just be one of two things: on or off. Simple as that. Either a flood of yellow or total darkness. Then the dimmer switch happened and you could adjust the brightness to meet your seductive needs and suddenly everyone looked a little better in the gentler light. And now your luminary universe […]
Projects will always need management. And now with the tech gold rush it feels like there are more projects than ever with fewer managers than there’s demand for. But it takes too much time and money to go back to school full time so luckily the Project Management Professional certification training course is now 96% […]
If you’ve been blessed enough to avoid them yourself, you’ve definitely heard the horror stories. Late night, crushing out a ton of work, writing, coding, anything, then boom – your computer crashes. The battery blows, you spill water or coffee all over the place, or it just shuts down with no explanation, and you’re screwed. […]