Since the tech bubble of the early 2000’s, companies near and far have been collecting loads of data from their customers. To companies in the e-commerce, social media or streaming verticals, the data they own is their lifeblood. It gives Facebook the ability to target users with marketing content that drives their revenue, where as companies like Netflix and Amazon use their data to recommend products and shows their consumers are likely to buy or view. Recently, many questions have been raised about users privacy and companies from Silicon Valley to New York City and beyond have had to walk a fine line between the ethical and unethical use of the data they collect. While the public is seemingly more lenient when it comes to how companies use data, they are increasingly weary of how governments use the same information. With the shocking revelations of the NSA data mining practices, the use of big data for public surveillance has garnered massive amounts of press and has sparked conversations about what is being used to help ensure our national security.
In his article, The First Weapon Against Lone Terrorists: Big Data Analytics, Yaakov Lappin, examines how Israeli security officials are using Big Data Analytics to prevent lone wolf attacks in Israel. Lappin explains how social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook interactions are the prime tool used by Jihadi recruiters to radicalize fighters in the West. Lappin describes how Israeli intelligence analysts are using advanced algorithms to sift through troves of social media interactions to identify and thwart lone wolf plots.
While one may argue that the Israeli government has a clear need and use for the program, regardless of the ethical questions of privacy that come with it, a definite case can be made that Western governments in Europe and North America should use the same tactics. In light of the recent attacks in Nice, Berlin, San Bernardino and New York, I believe that these programs are necessary and integral to protecting the citizens of western nations that find themselves increasingly under attack from Jihadis both foreign and domestic. I believe that society is facing a new age threat that requires new age thought to combat it. If there is reason to believe that an individual or an organization is conspiring to commit an act of terror or violence on the public, then it is within ethical standards to monitor the various forms of communication they are using. While there are absolutely cases where governments have overstepped their boundaries, it is clear that in this case, the ends clearly justify the means and although some may not like it, I feel that these practices are necessary to sustain western ideals and protect our way of life here at home.