Hasan Elahi was stopped and questioned by Homeland Security when flying back to the United States from a Transience Project. The reason for his detention was "suspicious movement after 9/11." and he was labeled as a suspected terrorist. Data on Hasan, like his cell phone records, were anonymized which made his whereabouts unknown which is what had him detained by Homeland Security. Since Hasan has been tracking his own movements for several years now, he could provide records of his whereabouts to the authorities which prompted his release.
A predictive algorithm, developed from MIT was used on Hasan's data which failed to predict his movements making him fully unpredictable. So does this mean that suspicious equals unpredictable? If a person is unpredictable in there movements then is this an accurate way to determine if someone could be a possible terrorist or threat? In the MIT study 93 percent predictability was found on all of the test subjects and only 7 percent of the time were a person's wereabouts a mystery. Based on this study, the predictability of a person's movement is preferred, if not then it can lead to problems as in the example of Hasan and his encounter with Homeland security.
So is monitoring people's cell phone, debit/credit card activity, and traveling activities a more efficient way to profile people? We are tracked everytime we use these products so our whereabouts are constantly being transmitted. So if someone does not conform to leaving a digital trail by using a cell phone or debit/credit card does this automatically make a person a terrorist and is this a just assumption? What about a persons right to privacy or is this necessary in the war against terrorism?
People have the right to try and keep their life as private as possible. From Homeland security's reasoning if people and their habits are predictable then they are not considered a terrorist. We should look closely at people's habits but not to the point of scrutinizing people due to not leaving a digital trail. For example, if Hasan does not use a cell phone or credit cards to keep his whereabouts unknown, then this should acceptable. Instead of interrogating the man to find out if he is a terrorist which I think violates his basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Homeland Securities actions do not surprise me since monitoring strange or no habits on a person is the algorithm that most government agencies use. The same algorithm works with credit card companies who alert cardholders of unusual spending activity which is compared against a person's normal spending history. I think Hasan is an important example and shows that Homeland Security made a mistake by analyzing his habits or non habits in the network. Since he showed up as an anomaly, this was a red flag which triggered Homeland Security to stop and interrogate him. Obviously he is not a terrorist and at the same time this questions the validity of the predictive algorithm. It could be that this was an isolated incident since the algorithm shows that only 7 percent of the time is a person's whereabouts a mystery.
Liberty and False Comparisons, an online article published by James Joyner reflects these times of change: "The conservative, torture-friendlyWashington Times, declared that “a balance must be struck between reasonable security measures and the maintenance of a free society.” Abu Ghraib was a fraternity prank, but getting frisked at the airport is a sign of, to quote the Times, “Big Sister’s police state.” (Outside The Beltway, http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/liberty-and-false-comparisons) If the predictive algorithm was used before people entered an airport, then the need to screen everyone before they enter an airplane could be decreased.
The predictive algorithm is an important endeavor for studying people's habits and even though there is a margin of error, the algorithm is still necessary in protecting national security. It is easier to justify searching or questioning someone who has unusual habits then it is to stop someone based on their race or religion. This way an entity like Homeland Security can justify stopping, searching and questioning someone based on their habits and avoid backlash since they did not profile someone based on race or religion. This form of tracking dangerous individuals is a big step forward in keeping people safe and minimizing the violation of people's rights. There will always be flaws or margins of error which will be hard to account for and it is in the best interest of the nation state to protect its people in the most efficient way possible.