We want to help the good guys in their fight against the bad guys
But what happens when the good guys do bad things?
TO say that Interpol World dominated this past week in Singapore might just be a mild understatement.
Try to imagine some 8,000 police officers, representatives from law enforcement agencies, government officials, commercial buyers, and journalists, from 34 countries descending on the Sands Expo Centre, crisscrossing three floors and two exhibition halls.
And judging by the flood of invitations for interviews that bombarded my inbox, it’s safe to say that every vendor and its uncle was in town for this inaugural event, organised by the world’s largest international police outfit.
To be honest, the real highlight of Interpol World was lunch, where thanks to the buffet format and free seating, it meant that you never know with whom you’d end up sharing a table.
On the first day, I had the pleasure of talking to two representatives from the investigative division of the US Federal Drug Administration, and got a peek into the challenges they face in stemming the flow of counterfeit drugs and tracking them back to their source.
For someone who only really looks at technology, it was a completely different world. By the way, the criminals have realised it’s better to make money off fake pharmaceuticals than narcotics because the risk is lower and the margins much, much higher – cancer drugs being the most lucrative category.
At lunch on the second day, a police investigator from Australia was at the table and I found out how after the Sydney Siege, there was a rethink about how law enforcement gets access to data when on the ground or during emergencies.
It was a matter of establishing what was more important: Getting access to needed data quickly or security, and the decision was made to adjust classifications of data access.
“Having been a beat cop for many years, I think it’s great that I can now access information I need from my mobile. It makes the difference when you knock on a door, knowing whether the person on the other side owns a gun, or has an issue with drugs – you’re no longer blind,” he shared.
Alas, he wasn’t able to share with me which vendor or end-point security solution was in use, but did assure me that there’s a roomful of very smart geeks who seem to “do nothing but play videogames all day,” who were on top of things and ensured his phone worked.
From cybersecurity, public safety, surveillance, intelligence, forensics and investigations, to counter-terrorism and anti-counterfeiting – technology solutions to aid, improve, and transform the way public agencies do their work was out in full force and on display at the trade exhibition in Singapore.
That line from the Six Million Dollar Man comes to mind: “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better ... stronger ... faster.”
Think of all the ‘future-tastical’ sci-fi films or books you’ve consumed, and chances are, there’s a vendor out there figuring out how to make some version of it a reality. Hello Minority Report? It just might be.
The thing is, we want to help the good guys in their fight against the bad guys and give them what they need to do it.
But the problem is, humankind isn’t a static, monolithic existence. What happens when the good guys do bad things? Or the bad guys take what we give the good guys, to do even worse things?
With the dawn of cyber-espionage, and the war of (mis)information taking place online between various creeds, how will we reap the benefits of new technologies such as analytics and the Internet of Things when their true power hinges on the unrestricted flow and sharing of information?
That’s the conversation happening right now, around the world.
Governments are making the long-term investments to future-proof and secure national critical infrastructure and communications networks, making cities smart and safer.
Many are figuring out what recipe of technology tools makes the most sense for agencies involved in areas such as emergency response and law enforcement.
And overarching it all, establishing the frameworks for collaboration not just domestically between departments and agencies, but internationally as well.
And the glue that’s going to hold all this together while humankind rises up to meet the challenges of its own unfortunate creation?
Trust. That’s not just the keyword, it’s also both the solution and the problem.
The next five to 10 years are going to be very, very interesting.
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