[ExI] Many people now on security watch list

Anders anders at aleph.se
Fri Sep 9 09:12:00 UTC 2016

This is of course by why naive keyword-based watch lists are total 
failures. And I would be shocked if any serious intelligence agency 
actually used them for real.

Given that people's Facebook likes give pretty good predictions of who 
they are (indeed, better than many friends)
there are better methods if you happen to be a big intelligence agency.

Still, while text and other online behavior signal a lot about a person, 
it might not be a great tool for making proper watchlists since there is 
a lot of noise. For example, this paper extracts personality dimensions 
from online texts and looks at civilian mass murderers:

They state:
> Using this ranking procedure, it was found that all of the murderers' 
> texts were located within the highest ranked 33 places. It means that 
> using only two simple measures for screening these texts, we can 
> reduce the size of the population under inquiry to 0.013% of its 
> original size, in order to manually identify all of the murderers' texts.

At first, this sounds great. But for the US, that means the watchlist 
for being a mass murderer would currently have 41,000 entries. Given 
that over the past 150 years there has been about 150 mass murders in 
the US, this suggests that the precision is not going to be that great - 
most of those people are just normal people.

The deep problem is that there is not enough positive data points (the 
above paper used seven people) to make a reliable algorithm. The same 
issue cropped up with NSAs SKYNET program, 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SKYNET_(surveillance_program) - they also 
had seven positive examples and hundreds of thousands of negatives, and 
hence had massive overfitting (suggesting the Islamabad Al Jazeera 
bureau chief was a prime Al Qaeda suspect).

As for myself, I better be on a watchlist. If not, we are in deep trouble.

On 2016-09-08 23:39, BillK wrote:
> This Hilariously Cruel Hoax Tweet Just Put Lots Of People On NSA's Radar
> An act of next-level trolling genius yesterday made many a gullible
> Googler ask the main question one shouldn't ask about ISIS.
> <https://www.fastcocreate.com/3063548/image-of-the-day/this-hilariously-cruel-hoax-tweet-just-put-lots-of-people-on-nsas-radar>
> ---------------
> Don't Google it!  You know you want to, but don't! Just don't!
> BillK
> _______________________________________________
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> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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