Let’s big data the crap out of terrorism

I’m Belgian currently in Boston picking up the brains of the great tech people here in one of the most educated cities of the world. When I heard of yet another terrorist attack in Europe and in Brussels this time… the shock was big once more. But this time, I felt that being anxious to speak up had to be over.

While going to events that same day and the next to listen to amazing people talking about solving big problems the way startups do best, I couldn’t help but think back to Brussels and wonder why we are not also tackling this HUGE problem the startup way! After all I’m an entrepreneur, a solution finder and an optimist…

Then came back in my head President Obama’s conference at SXSW and the big talk about privacy and phone access (I encourage everyone to listen to it if they haven’t done it yet)… And it hit me: Apple is right but so is the US government!

President Barack Obama Keynote Conversation | SXSW Interactive 2016

Would we really rather give up our entire freedom instead of punctual privacy? Probable cause and a warrant granted, why not open our phones as well as our doors? Do we have that much to hide that we prefer bombing innocent people than using technology to catch the crazies who hate us all? They attack the whole world again an again… I am part of the free world, a global citizen and a proud member of a entrepreneurial community: if my phone can help, take it!

If Apple won’t hack their own devices and with good reason (http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/), why not create a direct download? Backdoors clearly don’t work but front doors just might!

Because digital does not mean all access. When we think about data access, we really tend to think about illegal data access. But why prevent legal access just to make sure no-one illegally gets to our phones (which they actually already do anyway)? Using digital is just a tool, accessing it in an illegal way is a whole other matter that, when put in front of everything else, is crippling social and technological advancement. So why be so vehement about our phones? Why are we so sure it’s gonna be all bad? I might be idealistic but even then I’d rather risk abusive power of my individual rights than being removed my freedom or my life by terrorism!

Deluded fanatics are getting more organised and efficient and we need to adapt our defence. This war is not the same as the previous ones, we have to find new ways and look at what our strengths are now. Why would we look back and expect the last war “solutions” to work… It won’t, our ancestors have proven them wrong already. If we keep waiting on a perfect solution, we will be decimated. And we can’t either choose archaic measures like bombing innocent people or closing up our borders! It’s time to fight back and big data the crap out of them! We have the numbers, we have the technology and we have the devices… let’s use them!

Thanks to machine learning we now have the ability to make sense of big data and build a strong defence against terrorism… and who knows, we might even come up with the right counter-attack too! One matching our democracies, our open culture and our human right values. We already let our phones tell everyone we went running and where so why not use them to help track danger too?

It won’t be perfect, it never is. Some small proportion of bad will always occur, terrorism is a proof of that. But if bad people can make a mess, good people can make an harmony.

In tech we have a saying: “there is an app for that!” So why not do an app for this? If providers can’t lower their securities then why wouldn’t we do it? Why not make an app available that allows the government to access our phones when need be and with the proper paperwork, same as a regular warrant but digital. An app explained and structured clearly so we can help them help us. Leaders, NATO, UN: we live in a consumer world, so use it! Use us!

We are citizens of the free world, a beautiful world: peaceful, gender & race equal, innovative and collaborative. Put our defence in our own hands. Let us choose to help: build an official app, we’ll download it, we’ll give you access! Especially if it helps us win against terrorism without being butchers of our own.

It’s not in Apple’s power to grant you access because it’s not their access to give but each of us. All you have to do is ask us directly.

The word collaboration means something completely different now. During WWII it meant people helping the bad guys, today it must be the way good guys organise and fight back, together! Let’s prove them that tech communities are stronger than digital individuals.

So what say you? Will there be an app for that too?