Big Data and Law Enforcement: Was ‘Minority Report’ Right?

Crime / Law | Sectors   |   
Published March 6, 2014   |   
Yaniv Mor

Big Data has always been around in some form or another. At some point, businesses decided to use that information to learn what makes their clients tick with phrases like “sales funnel analysis,” “actionable insights,” and “positive business impact.” So it stands to reason that Big Data was viewed through green (read: money) colored lenses.

Somewhere along the line, however, someone realized that collecting and processing data doesn’t have to be for business purposes only, but also could be used to assist law enforcement. Maybe it was our beloved NSA that got the ball rolling when it decided to surveil every conversation in the world to see if people were talking about doing bad things (say what you will about what they did and how they did it, but the intent behind it was to catch bad guys).

One of the more encompassing projects belongs to The Department of Homeland Security. The Future Attribute Screening Technology project, aka FAST, identifies potential terrorists by using computers in a mobile lab to monitor individuals’ vital signs, body language, and other physiological patterns. By seeing which people exhibit signs of nervousness, as well as their reactions to certain situations, law enforcement officials can deduce which people might be up to something. Obviously a project of this nature has many kinks to work out, specifically that merely traveling can trigger the type of behaviors that could set off alarms. But still, to think that we can analyze real-time data to predict bad intent, it’s pretty cool.

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