After World War II, Winston Churchill expressed hope for a united Europe, where movement between borders would be free and where any European in any corner of that society could say, “Here I feel at home.” (“The War for Europe,” by Henry Porter, Vanity Fair, February 2016, pg. 89.) Decades later, after experiencing much recent bloodshed, France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls observed “history is fundamentally tragic.” (Ibid pg. 89.)
Certainly, Valls’ comment is on the minds of much of Europe as the bloody wars in the Middle East spill over the free borders Europeans have worked so hard to achieve. Now, feeling the need for increased security, some countries are restricting the movements of refugees. Churchill’s dream Is fading and, according to writer Henry Porter, the ISIS dream of breaking up the European Union with racial tension is on the rise. (Ibid pg. 141.)
Though an Atlantic Ocean away, the US , too, is preoccupied with security. Citizens are being subjected to mass surveillance on a grand scale, not only by the NSA but also from commercial data bases which conduct deep web searches. In Fresno, California, for example, a woman’s threat level was elevated because she was tweeting on social media about a card game called Rage.(“What’s Your ‘Threat Score’?” by Justin Jouvenal, The Week, Feb. 2016, pg. 40-14. )
And yes, each of us may have a threat level number. Local police departments are using a software program called Beware which assigns individuals a score based upon our personal records and our social network interactions. The technology, designed for the military, is now used to make broad sweeps of the civilian population and the practice is of growing concern to civil libertarians. (Ibid. pg. 40) Software designed to make decisions about a person’s threat level is, they feel, a disaster waiting to happen.
Recently, the Justice Department announced it will require federal agencies to obtain search warrants before collecting some of this personal information, a welcome decision. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover local law enforcement agencies. The question of Beware’s use rests with each community. The time has come for each of us to ask, how safe do we want to be?