, Salem, MA


August 8, 2013

Watson: Government collects data to look for threats


All sorts of threats today, hidden within terabytes of data, outnumber and move faster than search warrants or court-ordered surveillance. Consequently, our government is using continuously running complex algorithms, pattern recognition, statistics and mathematical strategies to scan, analyze, sort and categorize many (maybe all) of our phone calls, emails, blogs, Internet searches and social media connections to hunt for threats. They save much of the data in the hope of connecting dots — either before or after events.

The government is doing this for the right reasons, and that makes a difference. I don’t believe that any American government will use that data to abuse Americans — at least for long. Not enough citizens or politicians would stand for that. Although mistakes have occurred where individuals have been wrongly accused, they have been rare and got corrected.

So, we are stuck with difficult simultaneous realities — a dangerous world, a need for formidable surveillance and, therefore, the need to be watchful of both.


Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at

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