We are now hearing about the US government tapping into our emails and phone calls and texts under the guise of protecting national security. Supposedly, the government, using the information provided by the telecommunication companies, has developed algorithms which can look through massive amounts of data for links between people working together on potential terrorist acts aimed at the United States. Now I know that powerful computers can do amazing things with information but I found it hard to believe that even with the government’s ability to track billions of calls daily that it is possible to find those links since they are looking at such a miniscule percentage of the total calls (just trust me on this, I know what I am talking about, I’ve had a computer for a long time going way back to my TRS-80). But then after receiving some information recently I am starting to change my mind about the computers and algorithms and the abilities of the people who explore databases for information and I’ll tell you why.
I’ve always been interested in railroad operations, taken numerous long-distance train trips and enjoyed participating in railroad excursions. Recently I was able to take a railroad excursion with the 17 car train pulled by a large steam locomotive. The trip was very well organized from the reservation system to the way in which the passengers were quickly seated on the train. After I made my email reservation through Eventbrite, a company contracted by the excursion group to handle the trip arrangements, I was able to print the ticket and be checked in at boarding time by the same company. Everything went flawlessly and those who rode the train thoroughly enjoyed the sound, sight and thrill of riding behind a steam locomotive as it rolled through the farmlands of northern Ohio (as you would expect, the vast majority of the people riding on the train were men and I would say that most of those men were middle aged or older). But here’s why I am starting to change my mind about the government’s ability to track phone calls to find whatever it is that is targeted. Here’s why I think that they can actually do it. After taking the steam train excursion I received an email from Eventbrite, the company which managed the trip, (Eventbrite apparently handles numerous types of events). The email said that they had identified another event that they thought would be of interest to me. Great, like the government Eventbrite seems to be using their proprietary computer programs and databases to match my interests (riding on trains) with upcoming events. From the email it looked to me like I might just be going on another trip. As I sat there reading the words “another event” I started to reach for my credit card to reserve my space so I wouldn’t be shut out on this new trip but then I continued to read the announcement—“Events for You, From Us—Surprise! Our robots have picked out more great events just for you”. I’m thinking, “I wonder where we’re going?”
I read on, “Check out more recommendations just for you on Eventbrite”—Alright.
A conference on shale gas exploration and,
Speed dating for singles with graduate degrees (ages 25-39)
Not really interested in shale gas but speed dating for singles, with graduate degrees? 25-39? Apparently Eventbrite’s computer programing gurus have designed a program which identifies young females with graduate degrees who like to ride on steam train excursions with large groups of middle aged and older men who love trains. Isn’t this great? Only in America. So I figure if Eventbrite can match these two unique groups using its computer expertise then the Federal government with its vast resources shouldn’t have much trouble using telecommunication database information to run down potential terrorists.
On a personal note, I told my wife about this speed dating event and she’s very excited in fact she said she’ll drive me to the event. She wants to come in to see these women.