According to Ars Technica, the machine learning algorithm used by the NSA to analyse cellular data and determine if someone is a terrorist is "ridiculously optimistic" and "completely bullshit." As a result, thousand of innocent people "may have been mislabelled as terrorists," resulting in their "untimely demise." The authors worry when this system will be used nationally, "assuming it hasn't been already." Above, a screenshot of an NSA presentation showing how a journalist was labelled as a "member of Al-Qa'ida" because of his travels.
The program, the slides tell us, is based on the assumption that the behaviour of terrorists differs significantly from that of ordinary citizens with respect to some of these properties. However, as The Intercept's exposé last year made clear, the highest rated target according to this machine learning program was Ahmad Zaidan, Al-Jazeera's long-time bureau chief in Islamabad.
As The Intercept reported, Zaidan frequently travels to regions with known terrorist activity in order to interview insurgents and report the news. But rather than questioning the machine learning that produced such a bizarre result, the NSA engineers behind the algorithm instead trumpeted Zaidan as an example of a SKYNET success in their in-house presentation, including a slide that labelled Zaidan as a "MEMBER OF AL-QA'IDA."
|“Slut-Shaming” Jewish Israeli Women Supporting Palestine|
|Mexican Drug Cartels Are Far More Violent than ISIS|
|"Battleships may get a resurgence."|
|Mapping Arms Data|
|"Friction and conflict over oil and gas reserves -- leading to energy conflicts of all sorts -- is only likely to increase."|
|“If you don’t remember any of these countries from geography class, you’re not alone.”|
|“The greatest economic crisis of our age: the one still awaiting us.”|
|"Cells have the capacity to process and respond to instructions and codes inputted into their main system."|
|Making a Movie Inside a Video Game|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|“We deserve pity for being born in such primitive times.”|
|Google Map Shows You the Most Photographed Areas of the World|
|“Instead of consuming fossil fuels, it would then feed surplus electricity into the grid.”|
|“Any person, organization or government serious about web security should return to plain-text.”|
|“Clicking on a Facebook advert may reveal things about yourself you don’t want anyone to know.”|
|"They’ve managed to plant, tend, and harvest an acre and a half of barley using only autonomous vehicles."|