Web

US intelligence wants to predict human behavior with ‘data eye in the sky’

Big-Brother-shutterstock

The Internet and all that goes with it has allowed researchers an unprecedented macro view of human nature. And now, the US government wants to tap into the massive amount of information available online to create an automated “data eye in the sky,” which could enable the prediction of economic crises, political unrest and revolutions, and other events that affect humanity on a large scale.

The project is being spearheaded by an obscure US intelligence agency known as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or Iarpa (eye-AR-puh), which has begun to collect ideas for the public monitoring system from academics and corporations. The experiment is scheduled to kick off in April, and will start by monitoring the Internet in 21 Latin American countries.

As The New York Times reports: “The automated data collection system is to focus on patterns of communication, consumption and movement of populations. It will use publicly accessible data, including Web search queries, blog entries, Internet traffic flow, financial market indicators, traffic webcams and changes in Wikipedia entries.”

Not limited to economic and social upheaval, Irapa’s project also aims to detect pandemics and other forms of widespread disease, something Google has already attempted to do with its massive coffers of information and data access.

Not surprisingly, Iarpa’s plan to keep an eye on all of humanity has privacy advocates worried. The plan specifically reminds them of the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness initiative, which aimed to catch potential terrorists before they acted by monitoring phone calls, emails, credit card transactions and travel data.

“I have Total Information Awareness flashbacks when things like this happen,” said St. Martin’s University anthropologist David Price, in an interview with the Times. “On the one hand it’s understandable for a nation-state to want to track things like the outbreak of a pandemic, but I have to wonder about the total automation of this and what productive will come of it.”

While the data collected could help catch flu outbreaks, or predict political uprisings in other countries, it could also be used to stamp out citizen unrest, to win elections, or for malicious purposes not yet thought possible.

Whether the “big data” monitoring system is used for good or evil remains to be seen. What we do know is, it will be powerful.

“There is a huge amount of predictive power in this data,” Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, a physicist at Northeastern University, told the Times. “If I have hourly information about your location, with about 93 percent accuracy I can predict where you are going to be an hour or a day later.”

So beware, people; Big Brother is watching, and his eyesight is likely about to get a whole lot better.

[Image via Benjamin Haas/Shutterstock]

Movies & TV

How ‘invisible’ effects brought Winnie the Pooh to life in ‘Christopher Robin’

Christopher Robin earned an Academy Award nomination for the innovative way it merged Winnie the Pooh and other imaginary characters with its human cast in postwar London. Here's how visual effects studio Framestore worked its movie magic.
Home Theater

Apple is arming up to redefine TV just like it did the phone

Curious about what Apple's answer to Netflix will be? Us too. So we combed through some patents, and looked at the landscape, to come up with a bold prediction: Apple's streaming service will be way bigger than anyone thinks.
Cars

Waymo’s self-driving prototype obeys a traffic cop’s hand signals

One of Waymo's self-driving prototypes successfully navigated a situation that leaves even some human drivers confused: An intersection whose traffic lights are down. It waited for the traffic cop to wave it on.
Cars

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.
Computing

Microsoft extension adds Google Chrome support for Windows Timeline

The Windows Timeline feature is now much more versatile thanks to the added support for Google's Chrome browser. All you need to do to increase its functionality is to download the official Chrome extension.
Movies & TV

Here’s how to watch the 2019 Oscars livestream online

The 91st Academy Awards will air live on ABC, but there are also a number of ways to watch Hollywood's biggest night online using your mobile device, desktop, or set-top streamer. Here's how to catch the Oscars livestream.
Computing

YouTube changes its strikes system, offers softer first-offense penalty

YouTube announced changes to its strikes system for its content creators. The changes include a softer first-offense penalty for creators who violate YouTube's guidelines and more consistent penalties for further violations.
Computing

An experimental feature could help reduce memory usage in Google Chrome

Google Chrome might be the most popular web browser, but it also is a resource hog. Google is currently working on an experimental feature for Chrome which sets out to reduce its overall memory usage. 
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. The best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

Though there are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or OS.
Web

Rid yourself of website notification requests in just a few easy steps

Wish you knew how to block browser and website notifications? You can do it on a case by case basis, but that can become dull after the 10th site has asked for your approval. Here's how to block them outright.
Computing

Don't take your provider's word for it. Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.
Photography

The best place to print photos online in 2019

Have you been looking around for the best place to print out your favorite photos online or in store? Don't fret, we've pored through dozens of options and narrowed it down to the seven best.
Gaming

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.