A few years back I heard an expert in analytics explain why automating the search for terrorists via looking at tons of data by scanning emails, video or other electronic means just doesn’t work that well. Even at an incredibly high rate of accuracy, the number of false positives mean that investigators spend inordinate amounts of time looking into bad leads. And then even if you can get true accuracy, can you respond in time? Or, is it better to rely on people? Following the (thankfully failed) bomb attempt in Times Square and the talk of plastering video cameras all over the city, can we just take a step back first? The best example of what happens when video cameras cover every inch of a city comes from London, where there’s apparently been no impact on crime. Cameras wouldn’t have prevented the van from being parked in Times Square; it was an observant street vendor who spotted it. This is one area that a kneejerk reaction to adding technology will not work. Besides, I just don’t need anyone looking over my shoulder when I walk home from the office. And neither do you.

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