In 2002 Tom Cruise starred in the movie Minority Report, a Stephen Spielberg directed film.
Minority Report is a futuristic tale based on a Phillip Dick story with the same title. The plot is about crime fighting in the year 2052. More specifically, fighting crime in 2052 seeks to prevent crimes before they happen. Cruise’s character is the head of the Precrime Unit and is himself accused of a future crime. The Precrime Unit is connected to “precogs” who have psychic ability and are a component of the actual computer system. Crime details are reported and the Precrime Unit goes to arrest the accused, thereby preventing the crime. This movie raises important ethical questions such as: Is a person guilty of a crime they haven’t yet committed? If the future is known but can be changed, where does a person’s freewill fit into a predetermined outcome?
In Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman the author explains everyone’s vulnerability through all of our interconnected devices. Many (though not all) of these future crimes deal with Identity Theft. Goodman discusses crimes such as murder that can be committed remotely. For instance, sending a lethal jolt of electricity through a pacemaker could kill. More and more our reliance on technology and the way those technologies rely on each other makes all of us vulnerable to new and appalling crimes.
Criminals have proven time and again that they are early adopters of technology. This proves to be challenging for law enforcement agencies who tend not to be first adopters. Criminals have created a significant gap between themselves and law enforcement officials. Only in recent years have the “good guys” realized that they need to narrow the gap, but at what cost? Is privacy a thing of the past? Technology is a two edged sword.
If you think that a world similar to the 2052 Precrime Unit is only fiction and will never happen, think again. It’s already here. Though the details and technology may be somewhat different than the movie depictions of these events, predicting crimes before they happen is happening today in China. Predict Crimes Before They Happen. People are tracked by surveillance and more or less assigned points based on their activities. The higher one’s points the more suspicious one is considered. For instance if you shop for kitchen utensils (such as knives) and later shop for tools (Such as a hammer or an axe) you might be considered suspicious. Similarly patterns of behavior are tracked to determine if one is a thief or other type of criminal. Needless to say this raises all sorts of ethical questions about everything from privacy to when law enforcement should intervene. Is this sort of surveillance profiling even legal or moral? The questions are endless.
This type of Precrime activity has been in the US since at least 2010. In Indiana when you get your driver’s license picture taken, you have to pose for a facial recognition photo. You are not allowed to smile, there can be no bangs on your forehead, and you must remove your glasses. These are just some of the facial recognition points that are used by facial recognition software.
The next image is information released by Homeland Security.
Those “non-intrusive sensors” and “prototype system” could look like this:
You are on camera almost everywhere you go. Any time you are in public (and sometimes even when you aren’t such as when you are on the internet at home) information is being gathered about you. Your shopping habits, work habits, daily schedule, etc. is all being tracked. This kind of technology can be used for very good purposes or for very bad purposes.
In Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, Karen Greenberg talks about how our American liberties have been compromised and our laws weakened in the aftermath of 9/11 and the War on Terror. Spying on American citizens by our own government has become commonplace. Situations such as illegal and indefinite detentions have become the norm in certain situations and the use of torture by some government entities is either condoned or completely ignored all in the name of national security. Greenberg, who is a top expert on Guantanomo, torture, and terrorism makes the point that justice suffers when our reported beliefs about liberty clash with matters of national security. This is a book that will make the reader think and question some of our currently accepted protocols.
Where you aware that facial recognition is already being used to track you and your movements? Do you see other parallels between the Precrime Unit in 2052 and our current world?