Time to get the “useless eaters” out of government… that’s not a slogan, but rather a summary of what real companies find happens when they clean up business processes by implementing comprehensive computing strategies. Does America need more efficient and more responsive government? Of course!
So how do we get there?
Well, for now, there’s no particular “We” to it.
You and I (the law-abiders) are specifically not supposed to know about PRISM which for eight years has been correlating information of Americans without our a priori knowledge or consent.
But PRISM is only a very small part of the government’s move to slice and dice data about you. The Wikipedia list of surveillance database projects is frighteningly large:
- Boundless Informant: A system deployed by the National Security Agency to analyze global electronic information. In March 2013, Boundless Informant gathered 14 billion data reports from Iran, 6.3 billion from India, and 2.8 billion from the United States.
- BULLRUN, a highly classified U.S. National Security Agency program to preserve its ability to eavesdrop on encrypted communications by influencing and weakening encryption standards, by obtaining master encryption keys, and by gaining access to data before or after it is encrypted either by agreement, by force of law, or by computer network exploitation (hacking).
- Carnivore: A system implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that was designed to monitor email and electronic communications. Apparently replaced by commercial software such as NarusInsight.
- Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative
- DCSNet: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s point-and-click surveillance system that can perform instant wiretaps on any telecommunications device located in the United States.
- Fairview: A mass surveillance program directed at foreign mobile phone users.
- Financial Crimes Enforcement Network: A bureau of the Department of the Treasury that collects and analyzes financial transactions in order to combat financial crimes.
- Magic Lantern: A keystroke logging software deployed by the FBI in the form of an e-mail attachment. When activated, it acts as a trojan horse and allows the FBI to decrypt user communications.
- Main Core: A personal and financial database storing information of millions of U.S. citizens believed to be threats to national security. The data mostly comes from the NSA, FBI, CIA, as well as other government sources.
- MAINWAY: NSA database containing metadata for hundreds of billions of telephone calls made through the four largest telephone carriers in the United States.
- MUSCULAR: Overseas wiretapping of Google‘s and Yahoo‘s unencrypted internal networks by the NSA.
- MYSTIC is a voice interception program used by the National Security Agency.
- Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative: Under this government initiative, a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) may be filed by law enforcers, public safety personnel, owners of critical infrastructure or the general public.
- NSA ANT catalog: a 50 page document listing technology available to the United States National Security Agency (NSA) ANT division to aid in cyber-surveillance.
- PRISM: A clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) which can target customers of participating corporations outside or inside the United States.
- Room 641A: A telecommunication interception facility operated by AT&T for the U.S. National Security Agency.
- Special Collection Service (SCS): A black budget program that is responsible for “close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, breaking and entering.” It employs covert listening device technologies to bug foreign embassies, communications centers, computer facilities, fiber-optic networks, and government installations.
- Stellar Wind (code name): The open secret code name for four surveillance programs.
- Tailored Access Operations: Intelligence-gathering unit of the NSA that is capable of harvesting approximately 2 petabytes of data per hour.
- Terrorist Finance Tracking Program: A joint initiative run by the CIA and the Department of the Treasury to access the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) transaction database as part of the Bush administration‘s “Global War on Terrorism“. According to the U.S. government, its efforts to counter terrorist activities were compromised after the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was leaked to the media.
- Intelligence Community (IC): A cooperative federation of 16 government agencies working together, but also separately, to gather intelligence and conduct espionage.
- Utah Data Center: The Intelligence Community’s US$1.5 billion data storage center that is designed to store extremely large amounts of data, on the scale of yottabytes.
- X-Keyscore: A system used by the United States National Security Agency for searching and analysing internet data about foreign nationals.
In the past, I have often hypothecated an additional agency with a future-directed mission of controlling elected government in order to steer the path of history towards econometrically optimized futures, but so far at least, our fictional Directorate 153 doesn’t appear on this list. The only bit missing fuctionally, however, is the central processing power and future optimizing, similar to what’s being done every day on the academic side….
In a 1979 paper, a very forward-thinking researcher described the problem as “datamocracy” and proposed “Strategies against computer abuses and information tyranny.” Unfortunately, that horse if out of the barn now…so it’s time we look at some of the options ahead.
Government is already well ahead of the people and thus enjoys tremendous advantage.
There may be some compelling reason to “keep people out of government” but that’s what the Constitution holds to be illegal. Goverrnment is supposed to be by and for the people.
I’m not clear (and I suspect you’re not either) just how more spying on me meets the by and for concept, especially when the “for” part is super-secret and above the public right-to-know.
After suggesting innumerable times that Congress adjourn after immediately installing a secure online “Congressional Session” software package, and begin legislating from their home districts in order to break up the corptocracy that runs the K Street Mafia (influence peddlers in Washington), nothing has happened.
Perhaps a grassroots movement would help get them off the dime.
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James W. French’s master’s thesis written back in 1979 (back when a TRS-80 was a hot computer) proposed that:
“Datamocracy” is a society in which there are restrictions, or threats of restrictions, on the lives of individuals and society at large resulting from governmental and private-interest access, control, use and abuse of data/information file systems and computer resources. Although we have not yet reached a state of datamocracy, the current symptoms of this condition can be found in our society. These symptoms, and the implications they hold for us, and strategies against preventing datamocracy are the subjects of this study.”
Among the anticipated abuses, cited by French way back in 1979 (genuinely great forward-analysis on his part!) suggested things that are totally commonplace today:
1. Businesses swindling other businesses
2. Government clerks embezzling public money.
3. Government agencies coercing individuals to extract information.
4. Blacklists of businessmen
5. Rosters of individuals considered to be anti-American from the FBI
6. The abuse of individual’ sensitive information in credit report and automobile applications.
Since then, we can toss in healthcare, reading materials, shopping habits, and collation through automatic face recognition software of most of your political beliefs and so on.
French’s work was spot on. And in many ways, his concerns echoed the findings of the U.S. Privacy Protection Study Commission, which issued its report in July of 1977.
The report, titled “Personal Privacy in an Information Society” (available online here) is disturbing reading.
While it could be argued that the hearings were held an amazing 37-years ago, they have not served as either a set of watchdog guidelines, nor principles by which Congress and the other branches should behave.
Instead, especially to those with even a hint of conspiratorial bent, it has been a roadmap. Everything that they worried agout coming true back in ’77 is turning into front page news today.
Birthing the Electrofascist State
Government, as presently constituted, organized (and sold for both monetary and political privilege) is failing us miserably on multiple fronts.
Consider ongoing issues – crime, immigration, war, crooked markets and courts – which think corporations are super-human in their rights – and I think you’ll agree there’s lots of room for improvement in the current system.
We need more mental acuity on point: Developing a multiplicity of patchwork surveillance projects does not make a transparent, functional, fully-capable enterprise management system to anyone who’s been exposed even to the basics of enterprise computing.
A couple of pages from the 1977 government report show just how deeply we have sunk into the morass of data madness:
Go back and read how right-thinking people were looking at the future:
“Discussion of the need to protect individuals from threats to personal privacy often conjures up image of government agents conducting surreptitious investigations and compiling dossiers.”
Which is EXACTLY what is going on today. Data tracking of every man, woman, and child in America is *(thanks to Snowden, et alia) precisely what is now ongoing, common, and widespread practice in America.
Done under the guise of “terrorism” – it’s much like a good old-fashioned Red Scare ala Joe McCarthy. But let’s also toss in religious bigotry, the interests of the Defense Industry and heap in a few tablespoons full of automated facial recognition software, for good measure.
Those extremes weren’t yet in view in 1977 and this is the “new and improved” electrofascist state.
Orwellian Fear Factor in 1977. Passé and in the rearview mirror in 2015.
Functions of Government
As I put on my “business consultant hat” and pretend that I just walked into your country, the first thing I would ask about your business or country is “Tell me what you do around here?”
You might seem a bit put on the spot, but my motives are clean so you pick up a pen and start jotting down some ideas.
Momentarily, I stop you – having done my “client homework” like a consultant.
Here, I try this: It’s the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. “
Now, let’s make a task list out of this and see lends itself to modern business process automation, shall we?
1. Form a more perfect union.
2. Establish justice.
3. Insure domestic tranquility.
4. Promote the general welfare.
5. Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
“OK, Ure, how you gonna do all that?”
It’s actually pretty easy, once you set yourself about the task and recognize that while the term “datamocracy” has been posed as a negative term in the past, there’s really nothing intrinsically good or bad about it.
Just like there’s nothing inherently good, or bad, about hot water, cold water, or bamboo. Each is good or bad depending on context. Bamboo if shoots and growing under your fingernails in a prison camp might be a bad thing, but succulent bamboo in a nice Chinese won ton soup is pretty good.
When you go and wade through even some of the 690 pages of that 1977 report, it becomes clear that this has been a roadmap for a bunch of powerful people and we need to take it back. And what better tool to use than to spin the one that’s been turned on us?
First We Need a Platform
Now, in order for us to actually have a workable electronic, internet-based government, we need hardware, software, and a security system.
So let’s highlight those:
As for the hardware side of things, that NSA data center up in Provo, Utah would work, but we’d only use that for a few things. Most of what would be done by our online government would be accomplished via a domestic cloud.
The software design would be modular, which would make implementation of the processes much smoother while at the same time providing for continuity in government, higher levels of security than even online banks, and so forth.
It’s like when you bring in a new automated accounting system. If it’s a complete system (accounting and ERP – enterprise resource management) you begin by mapping the workflows and then coding each of them.
In building the world’s first datamocracy we would so something similar: We would begin with a real-time voting and feedback module.
This would enable us to set up frequent elections once we get the modules built that will run the rest of the country.
And just like a good content management system for Education (such as www.moodle.org) each of us would have a private “grade book” that would advance us into ever more responsible levels of participation.
As part of this first effort – a grand hardware platform, logon security, and encouraging participation via voting and scoring people for online efforts like mentoring and so forth – we would also set up a “American Voices” website which would be readily constructed through acquisition of several key social properties.
You no doubt have seen the rumors that “Facebook is going to charge people” – a rumor that has been around for years – but what if instead of Facebook, we were to rebrand it as “The American Platform” and ensure that everyone gets a free account and that high speed internet is delivered to every home in America.
This would set in motion a very positives series of events. Leaders would likely become a lot more transparent realizing that the groundswell of public participation was not going to be “managed away.” It would ensure that every morning, people would have online access and as part of our next government service, we would develop free, on-line continuing education and vocational programs so we don’t have to import anyone from the third world. We could actually go back to being semi self-sufficient.
This is just one “development path” but it demonstrates that there are a number of ways that functions of government could be done better, faster, cheaper on the internet than the senselessly large corporate institutions that choke the very vitality out of government.
Another logical blend would be IRS into NSA and county assessors offices, plus the Depository Trust Corporation (Cede & Co.) which somehow gets to hold almost every piece of stock in America.
Looked at from the perspective of business process engineering, we can quickly see that revenue collection (based on self-reported income) could be much more effectively handled by considering purchases, income levels, and reviewing cash flows from assets.
On its own, the existing government system is moving slowly in that direction, anyway. In fact, we see it in next week’s start up of FATCA (which will force foreign banks with more than $50-thousand in an American’s overseas account) to be reported to the US.
And I don’t have to worry about my wash sale calculations when I go on a trading binge when I make up money – the IRS reporting done as a customer service year-end feature of stock outfits – would be plus and play with the “new vertical approach.”
Modules and Rollout
Within the framework of a “more perfect union” I think it is safe to say that an electronic version of democracy would be considerably more efficient than the brick and mortar kind that we have now.
To be sure, government has begun the process of individually automating, but only in a limited fashion.
If you were a business consultant and you were called in to a large corporation, made up of multiple divisions, would you say that business process was “efficiently optimized” if each of the divisions had a different computer system and if it was not all “tied back” into a single dashboard that management could use (effectively) to optimize business processes and generate comprehensive management reports, thus being able to track and further improve workflows?
That’s just a scaled down version of what we run into in ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems all the time: A department here that runs on an Access database that doesn’t connect to the outside world, or a spreadsheet-based subsection that requires manual entry.
Since we’ve already made a de facto move into datamocracy, it then becomes a matter of slowly evolving different agencies into a cohesive framework.
Since I’m proposing a single national online voting system for all elections, with open source code to avoid charges of data tampering and keep government truly transparent (open government/open source), the problem them becomes which of the three wings of government is most suited to full transition to the online world?
I suggest the Courts.
Imagine, if you will, being able to take a day off work, signing in to your computer with that three factor security system (password, emailed session identifier, and a confirming biometric like a thumbprint) and sitting down to a Skype-like session where cameras auto-switch between speakers and you’re in court!
The jury would be able to go into conference, just like any other online conferencing service and minor tweaks would be needed for functionality, but it would basically be similar to a Skype, WebEx, or GoToMeeting session.
Jury selection would be based on profiles and random selection perhaps compiled from the NSA records, your Amazon history, not to mention your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and past online government participation history.
Speech to text would generate the written record, wile video to text would indicate nods and head and eye movements.
Evidence would be entered electronically (in advance) and jurors would be able to learn more about their latitude to overrule the judge, ask their own questions, and seek genuine justice, as was intended by the Constitution. Action groups could pass on things like Fully Informed Jury Association website.
The Internet-based democracy is not without opponents: No doubt, the judges who presently run courts would object to their powers being subsumed by the citizenry. But, I believe that was the intent of the Framers of the Constitution. Namely, to ensure that government doesn’t get so big that all power doesn’t remain in the hands of the people.
Would it be a better government than what we have now?
That’s debatable but only to a point.
The Grassroots might still get control of the datamocracy. It can begin slowly with another “idea roll-out” to the public as a Peoplenomics “experimental website.”
This will be a concept and news site, have backgrounders, including this report as concept papers, but it will then be turned over to constituents in order to move the process forward.
When I get it cobbled together, it will live at www.datamocracy.com.
In the meantime, I think it’s important that we recognize that the arrival of Datamocracy is real and no matter how much we kick and scream about things, Big Data is meeting and joining with Big Government in ways that can create Big Problems, not the least of which is cutting People out of the equation.
It’s the role of Datamocracy (the website to be built) to attempt to reserve a place at the table for We the People, formerly citizens, but quickly dissolving into mere “subjects” of an increasingly less responsive “machine.”
To do this, government needs to get ahead of the problem, just like the dozens of companies I’ve been involved with helping them “get ahead” of their dataface with their customers.
This is not subversion…it’s evolution.
And a read of the 1977 concerns in “Personal Privacy in an Information Society” - the report of the Privacy Protection Study Commission” and the recently enacted Affordable Care Act, should clarify the scope of work (SOW) for you.
If it’s not clear, ask any Veteran who’s been jerked around by the V.A. A fine example of how NOT to roll out enterprise management.
Congress, the Courts, and the President are not supposed to be innovators. They are supposed to be implementers of the will of the People. But because they are failing on multiple fronts, a healthy dose of business process reengineering may be just what’s needed.
Although they may not see it this way: Evolving an ever-more complex bureaucracy will not break-up the concentrated power that continues to accrue to powerful special interests.
The thought this morning really comes down to this: That publicly supported participatory electronic democracy (think of it as a management “shell” if you will) is the least violent way I can think of to migrate into the data-dense future.
Left to their own devices, the frightening and more likely outcome is moving ever closer to Data_Death_Squads.
You can’t have a world operating on Internet Time and a government operating on sun dials, or you’re asking for trouble.
An example? Sure:
This morning the L.A. Times reports “Federal judge declares government no-fly list rules unconstitutional.”
That lawsuit was filed in 2010. The resolution: 4-years later.
Ihink you can see the problem, but yourself this:
Would you do business with a company that takes four years to make a decision on a customer service issue? And it’s not over yet…the decision from “support” is likely to be appealed…
In an effectively run organization, this kind of “major customer service issue” would have been resolved within a week or two of the origination of the “no-fly” list back in 2003.