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'Pre-Crime' Technology Raises Privacy Concerns

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on August 25, 2010 7:09 AM

The Hollywood hit, Minority Report was a sci-fi thriller that showed technology capable of predicting crime, and police using this knowledge to stop criminals before they even start. Although the pre-crime technology in Minority Report was the result of three psychic mutants, life seems to be imitating art in many ways. The Huffington Post reports that Google and the CIA have invested in Recorded Future -- a company that monitors a web surfers every action to make connections, and ultimately predict the future.

Recorded Future essentially scours web sites, twitter accounts, facebook pages, and blogs to find relationships between people, organizations, and real-life incidents. The company then analyzes the hidden links between the activities to paint pictures and draw conclusions. The result? Not only is the program able to predict what is occurring in the world in real time, but also link present action to predict future happenings.

This marriage between a business and the government to fund a start-up is not without its controversy. Predicting whether an individual or organization has a greater tendency to commit a crime will obviously lead to increased cyber supervision of activity -- taking criminal profiling to a whole new level. In addition to privacy concerns, there is also the fear that these pre-crime findings can fall into the wrong hands, or be used incorrectly with deadly results.

Minority Report juxtaposed the beauty and the beast in this type of technology -- a cautionary tale that many feel should be heeded when implementing actual pre-crime technology. However, as the Huffington Posts notes, "because of the shroud of national security that the CIA throws over every development, it is unlikely that anything short of a congressional hearing will reveal more." Thus, we are left to postulate on the future of our online activities, and the many ways pre-crime technology will serve to shape cyber activities.

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