Initially, as the Information Age brought about technologies like email, cellphones and text messaging, we only had to worry about Uncle Sam and big government eavesdropping on all of our electronic communications.
But now the private sector is getting into the surveillance game as well, thanks to — who else? — Uncle Sam. Enter the tech giants and the role being played by Apple, Google, Amazon, and others.
As reported by The Daily Wire, the Trump administration in recent days has been presented information about a project that would utilize home electronics technology to collect data on human subjects as a means of preventing mental health-related violence.
The Washington Post reported further:
Supporters see the plan as a way President Trump could move the ball forward on gun control following recent mass shootings as efforts seem to be flagging to impose harsher restrictions such as background checks on gun purchases.
The paper said that the idea stems from a larger initiative to create a new federal agency called HARPA — the Health Advanced Research Agency Project, which would be modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), designer of super-secret new weapons technology.
The director of HARPA would be a presidential appointee and the agency itself would have its own budget, people familiar with the plan leaked to the Post.
HARPA, like DARPA, would also co-mingle with academia and the private sector when developing new health-related technologies.
The Suzanne Wright Foundation, founded by Bob Wright following his wife’s unsuccessful battle with pancreatic cancer in November 2016, backs the HARPA project, which was first discussed by members of the Domestic Policy Council and senior White House officials in June 2017. The idea is gaining traction in the wake of a pair of mass shootings this month, one in El Paso, Texas, and another in Dayton, Ohio, on the same day.
Last week, the foundation recontacted the Trump administration to present HARPA anew to include a “Safe Home” project, which stands for “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping overcome Mental Extremes.”
Initially, the four-year project, which would cost between $40 million and $60 million, would use volunteers in an effort to identify “neuro-behavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act.”
But here is where the project seems to go off the rails in terms of privacy. The Post notes that HARPA would devise “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence, according to the proposal, the Post reported. “Multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics, is needed to achieve such an accurate diagnosis.”
The proposal notes that there are several existing home-use technologies that could be tapped into in order to collect the data necessary for evaluation: Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo, and Google Home, among others.
“Advanced analytical tools based on artificial intelligence and machine learning are rapidly improving and must be applied to the data,” the proposal notes.
And while in the initial data research phase using volunteers, the proposal states that no sensitive health data would be collected, how can anyone be certain that will continue to be the case if/when this project is fully developed and then rolled out nationwide?
Because if the objective is to stop mass shootings (among other things) before they happen, such a ‘warning system’ would have be deployed whether someone wanted to be a part of the program or not if it were to be effective — right?
Privacy be damned.