Six weeks ago, the two terrorists who planned the Boston Marathon bombing were captured in a matter of days. This was accomplished because today’s incredibly powerful hardware and software can sift through billions – if not trillions – of multimedia data generated on social media sites through handheld, mobile devices. The biggest criticism against government/law enforcement officials was their reluctance to pursue leads more aggressively in 2011, i.e. they seemed to give too much weight to individual privacy considerations and not enough to national security risks.
Last week’s disclosure that the National Security Agency (NSA) collected/analyzed data from Verizon & others generated much negative press. Since the vast and overwhelming number of people have nothing to hide – does the NSA really need to see pictures of my daughter Amanda’s dance recital? – this reaction is understandable. But you can’t criticize government/law enforcement one day for worrying too much about privacy considerations, then take the opposite position the next day.
Having lost friends on 9/11, knowing others who lost limbs in Boston, and with a son serving in the US Coast Guard’s law enforcement group, I am hardly an unbiased analyst. My own take is that we live in a dangerous world, technology has the ability to make it safer, and for that I am willing to accept some government oversight. Let them know that Amanda wore a pink tutu (she looked adorable, by the way). I can only hope and pray that the people in charge of these programs have the correct moral compass, know which youtube postings and tweets matter, and stop the next marathon bombing before it ever happens.