“Grid search,” “raster manhunt.” Pre-crime data dragnet. Controversial German police method pushed into law in the 1970’s “to deal with the Red Army Faction,” preserved through the 1990’s “because of organized crime,” briefly tried out after the 9/11 attacks and considered by its critics to have failed, in which police are given access to big data troves to search for suspects before a crime is committed. The police create profiles of people they think are likely to commit crimes, identify characteristics for those profiles, identify data markers they think indicate those characteristics, and then use computers to “filter” large data troves for people with those markers. Files are opened for closer investigation of those “caught” in the dragnet and their friends, family, neighbors and other associates.

Several million data sets were shared and examined in this way after 9/11 but no arrests were made. The Bundesverfassungsgericht ultimately decided this was not legitimate and said future data investigations of the magnitude used in vain to find “sleepers” in Germany would have to be in response to a “concrete threat to high-level Rechtsgüter,” which might mean legal goods or legally protected interests. At an anti-neonazi march in Dresden in 2011, police got a court’s permission to collect all mobile phone “connections” data [Verbindungsdaten] in a large zone around the demo for several hours. ~300,000 people’s phone data were collected according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, some of which were then used for purposes other than originally submitted. Wikipedia says police also used drones and other cameras to record that demo. Videos from that march have been submitted as evidence in the trial of an anti-nazi youth pastor accused of urging people to throw stones at police.

(ROSS tah FOND oong.)


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