Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins asks if wider use of technological surveillance, of the kind that is used against terrorists like al-Qaeda, might have done a better job in preventing the massacre allegedly perpetrated by Stephen Paddock. He writes:
This column has always been partial to Dean Martin’s theory of gun control. The singer was arrested with an illegal weapon in his car. When asked by a reporter if everybody should carry a gun, he joked, “No, just me.”
Unfortunately, this is not a realistic basis for legislating for 330 million people. Let’s stop covering our eyes with respect to the potential of big data. As a top U.S. intelligence official pointed out after 9/11, nearly every transaction and communication nowadays leaves an electronic trail—if we could only make use of it.
The information exists. It would be a job for algorithms, not human snoops, to rake through the unimaginable piles of data for the telltale patterns. Protection of privacy could be programmed into such a system, with rules specifying how such information can be surfaced for human consideration. So let’s at least be willing to find out what the potential is.
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