We are headed toward a surveillance society. Today, technology allows for all our daily transactions to be tracked and all the intimate details of our lives to be electronically monitored. Artificial intelligence programs can sift through our data trail to make judgments about us or detect unusual behavior. The emerging technologies promise to make our world more efficient and more secure, but at what price?
PETER JENNINGS REPORTING: NO PLACE TO HIDE looks at cutting-edge surveillance technologies, and examines the challenge of balancing security and freedom in the digital age.
The 9/11 attacks signaled a desperate need for the government do a better job using technology to "connect the dots." The information industry quickly rushed to the government's aid with solutions for hunting down the terrorists: access to billions of records containing personal information on most Americans; profiling systems that could analyze consumer behavior to detect terrorist activities; and facial recognition programs that could scan crowds to pick out terrorists.
Companies like Acxiom and ChoicePoint use advanced artificial intelligence programs to sift through our data trail to target consumers, perform background checks, but also to make judgments about us -- and detect unusual behavior. These companies' supercomputers hold information on more than 90% of the households in America -- and law enforcement and intelligence agencies are increasingly turning to their databases to hunt down criminals and terrorists.
NO PLACE TO HIDE documents the government's attempts to implement these new technologies and its failure to inspire public confidence with programs like MATRIX and the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project. Jennings reports that despite the highly publicized setbacks and demise of some of these and other programs, efforts to create a domestic intelligence capability quietly continue.
Can government and the private sector be trusted to effectively and responsibly use these tools? In search of an answer, Jennings goes to an unlikely place -- Las Vegas, where the casino industry has pioneered an approach to surveillance that may have lessons to teach the government on how to confront the terrorist threat, while at the same time, not place ordinary citizens unnecessarily under the microscope.
This project is a collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting and Washington Post reporter Robert O'Harrow, Jr., the author of a book also titled "No Place to Hide."