The Social Laboratory

Big data – “emails, phone logs, Internet searches, airline reservations, hotel bookings, credit card transactions, medical reports” – can point to patterns in motivation and behavior. Eager to expand such programs for security purposes, some US officials envy Singapore’s law-and-order attitudes and the uninterrupted power of the People's Action Party since 1959: “They are drawn not just to Singapore's embrace of mass surveillance but also to the country's curious mix of democracy and authoritarianism, in which a paternalistic government ensures people's basic needs – housing, education, security – in return for almost reverential deference,” reports Shane Harris for Foreign Policy. The Singapore government relies on big data “to plan procurement cycles and budgets, make economic forecasts, inform immigration policy, study housing markets, and develop education plans for Singaporean schoolchildren – and they are looking to analyze Facebook posts, Twitter messages, and other social media in an attempt to ‘gauge the nation's mood’ about everything from government social programs to the potential for civil unrest.” Singaporeans show a high tolerance for constant surveillance as long as they can apply the same to elected officials. – YaleGlobal

The Social Laboratory

Singapore is testing whether mass surveillance and big data can not only protect national security, but actually engineer a more harmonious society
Shane Harris
Monday, August 4, 2014
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy and the author of the forthcoming book @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, which will be published in November 2014.
Copyright held by Foreign Policy © 2014

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