Increased Surveillance Not Effective in Preventing Homegrown Attacks

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Foreign Policy writer and intelligence author Shane Harris believes big data surveillance is not an effective way to prevent homegrown attacks; the assumption that big data collected by national security to predict crimes and terrorism is not reliable.

WASHINGTON, October 30 (RIA Novosti) — Big data surveillance is not an effective way to prevent homegrown attacks, like the recent attack in the Canadian Parliament, cybersecurity and intelligence author and Foreign Policy writer, Shane Harris said.

The "preemptive idea" of collecting large amounts of data, as done by the NSA in the US, "just really doesn't work," Harris said Wednesday. "We don't have any hard evidence it works. The science… suggests it doesn't work."

"The Prime Minister [Stephen Harper] and Conservative party largely have been pushing this expansion of surveillance," Harris said at the New America Foundation discussion on preventing homegrown attacks. "The shootings really became a catalyzing effort for the Conservatives to start pushing really hard to push this through."

The assumption that big data collected by national security agencies can predict crimes and terrorism is also unreliable, Harris said. "In the big data context you have to be very careful about things like false negatives, guilt by association, patterns that look meaningful but actually aren't."

Immediately following the October 22 shooting in the Canadian Parliament by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who appeared to be driven by ideological motives, Prime Minister Harper called for increased powers for the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS). The measures proposed by Harper were previously shot down in the Canadian courts in 2013. Specifically, the administration is looking to alter the law on preemptive arrests for individuals contemplating terrorist acts. There are also proposals to enable further information sharing between the Canadian security agencies and larger states' security agencies like the US National Security Agency (NSA) and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

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