What to expect after the Brussels attacks. And why it will not work.

Once again terrorists have struck.

No doubt, this will be followed by new calls for mass surveillance.

But mass surveillance doesn’t really work. It’s rather draining the police and intelligence services of resources – making us all less safe.

Not even a system with 99% accuracy would be useful. It would give 10,000 false positives per million people’s communications scanned. That’s simply not workable. (And it would lead to dramatic consequences for totally innocent people.) Also, there are no systems even close to being 99% accurate.

After the Paris attacks Waldemar Ingdahl wrote in Spiked:

And yet, despite the vast array of new powers granted to security agencies over the past 15 years, they still find it difficult to connect the dots in the lead-up to a terrorist attack. In fact, the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005 were undertaken despite the fact that some of the perpetrators were already under surveillance.

What we need is more traditional police and intelligence work — not security bureaucrats behind computer screens, trying to find suspicious patterns in ordinary people’s communications.

Human intelligence is hard, often dangerous and expensive. But that is what it takes. Everything else is part of a counter-productive security theatre.

But then again, fighting terrorism might just be a pretext for mass surveillance of the general public.


Spiked, November 2015: Why mass surveillance misses terrorists »

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