Military and IOT from Societies Perspective

The potential of Military innovation in the realm of IOT/ICT reaching the commercial sector … what are the social obligations and legal considerations that the military need to consider?
[should they] share technological innovation that could potentially benefit society, or at the very least, the specific nation that they represent?

Memory foam, cordless vacuums, solar energy, cochlear implants, smoke detectors — all derived from tech invented by NASA and an easy connection to make between publicly-funded science for the benefit of mankind. But what about when the invention IOT/ICT has a place in the battlefield and then finds its way into public life? Do the questions of ethics and legality work the other way? Should the military be considering the public harm as well as the public good?

Along with the Black Lives Matter campaign, there has been much in the press around the on-going militarization of American police forces. Reacting to police shootings and the resulting protest action, President Obama barred the federal government from providing some military equipment to American police departments in May last year.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them …It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message. So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.” 
(The Guardian, 18 May 2015, Obama to ban police military gear that can ‘alienate and intimidate’)

Not only has there been a mission creep of heavily armed SWAT teams (deployment estimates 3,000 times in 1980, but are now used around 50,000 times a year), these teams are more heavily armed than ever. they are quipped with hardware such as flash-bang grenades, armoured vehicles, gas masks, heavy weaponry and body armour. Much of it ex-military equipment. The National Defense Authorization Act 1990 allowed the Defense Department to transfer military gear and weapons to local police departments if they were deemed “suitable for use in counter-drug activities”. Post 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security, disbursed more than $35 billion in grants to state and local police forces.

“The American Civil Liberties Union found that the value of military equipment used by American police departments has risen from $1 million in 1990 to nearly $450 million in 2013.”
(The Nation, 19 May, 2016, American Military Technology Has Come Home — to Your Local Police Force)

In addition to the obviously visible hardware, there are more covert and hidden technologies now in use that originate with the military.

  • Police in Baltimore use of Stingray technology ( a cell-site simulator or IMSI catcher). With a call-and-response process, the Stingray knows both what cell phones are in the area and where they are. In other words, it gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well.
  • Predictive policing software (such as PredPol and HunchLab) provide ‘bias-free’ policing built on the latest in computer software and are capable of leveraging big data in ways that can determine where crime is most likely to occur next.
“[PredPol] … according to SF Weekly, initially designed for “tracking insurgents and forecasting casualties in Iraq,” and was financed by the Pentagon
(The Nation, 19 May, 2016, American Military Technology Has Come Home — to Your Local Police Force)
  • In Chicago, the police are using social-networking analysis and prediction technology to draw up “heat lists” of those who might perpetuate violent crimes someday and pay them visits now.
  • Body-mounted and vehicle-mounted cameras — could arguably make policing and decision making more transparent, but only if police departments are obliged to release footage (which in the U.S. they presently are not compelled to do).

There are a myriad of civil rights issues connected with this use of technology in civilian settings. The underlying factors are complex, including the military-industrial complex, federal legislation & budgeting and local judiciary.

I’m interested to know whether you think the military has a role to play in protecting its nation’s citizens; not only from external threats, but from threats created within, threats perhaps aided by technology first invented by that same military?

“There are no secrets about the world of nature. There are secrets about the thoughts and intentions of men.”
J. Robert Oppenheimer
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