Moving on with the discussion, Robert Steele dwells on pros and cons of the present-day online search, primary OSINT challenges, and technical surveillance.
– What type of search engines do we need? Will Google stay or go?
– One of the great things about nurturing OSINT has been the quality people I have met all over the world. Many of them are right here in the USA. Stephen E. Arnold of Arnold IT is the person I most rely on to understand where the industry is going. Below is his answer, followed by my own thoughts.
“Search will evolve in two directions. Predictive systems. These will provide search based on user behaviors, location, and past actions. Faceted systems. These will display suggestions and timely content and offer a search box. The “good old days” of Boolean queries, parameters, and advanced syntax are not usable on some mobile devices and run counter to what those under the age of 40 prefer. Google will stay. It is an ad delivery system. Search is one means of hooking ads to users’ information needs.” Stephen E. Arnold.While I admire all that Google has done, Google disappoints on multiple fronts. Google is a threat to virtually every industry that has any form of content, and I consider Google predatory and unethical – predatory in trying to copyright stuff it digitizes, and unethical in how it treats private information including Google Enterprise data. Google is doing nothing to help people share information in context or make sense about anything in relation to time and space. Of course I like Google mashups, and I consider Google Maps one of the most extraordinary contributions of all time, but in the end Google lacks the comprehensive architecture and the common services needed to create the World Brain and Global Game – not because it cannot do this much-needed common structure and service, but because its leadership refuses to go to the next level.
My personal priority for search – recognizing that less than 10% of all knowledge is online and that only 2% of that 10% is searchable – is multilingual text search and geospatially and time-based search. When I helped create the concepts for advanced workstations and the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, my number one requirement was to be able to type in “Tell me everything there is to know, in any language,any medium (audio, video, image both overhead and hand-held, text, kanji) about this one spot on the face of the Earth.” Not only can we not do that, but the $75 billion a year US intelligence Community cannot do it either – they are still suffering 80 different databases, each with their own search, their own security, their own protocols, their own bureaucracies.
My next priority is originator’s persistent ownership and control. One of the coolest things I ever experienced, in the late 1980’s, was the ability to follow an official email and see where it had been copied, forwarded, etc. Information is art – it has a provenance. In order to get all information searchable, we have to dramatically enhance end-user authenticity and Creative Commons rights including the right to follow one’s information everywhere it might be used, translated, etc. This is where I think CISCO has blown it. John Chambers probably never got the letters I sent him. I like CISCO – but if it will not listen, it will not scale.As for where Google will go, I would certainly refer everyone to Stephen E. Arnold’s “Google Trilogy”. I had very high hopes for Google when Vint Cerf signed with them, and started losing hope when Larry Brilliant left them. Google has been surviving on investor cash and I do not think advertising will carry them much further. Where Google has gone wrong, in my humble view as an unemployed person, is in falling prey to the paradigms of secrecy instead of sharing, and copyright/patent dominance instead of setting open standards. Their computational mathemaitics is from another planet, but they are not lifting all boats. If I were empowered I would combine 2012 Steele for Branson: The Virgin Truth 2.6 (see image) with an Open Source Agency (OSA), sponsor a global competition for an affordable OpenBTS smart phone, and give Twitter and Amazon as well as Google and CISCO and IBM, one chance to come to the table and play well together. My bottom line is that proprietary is unaffordable and does not scale – the center of gravity for the future of IT is the five billion poor, not the one billion rich. India gets that, the US-based companies do not.
– What recent events or trends in OSINT do you think were most commendable?
– Let me begin my answer to this question by pointing to the recent judgment, BGen James Cox, CA (Ret) On the Record on Open Source Information versus Open Source Intelligence versus Secret Intelligence. He is the flag officer that got over 66 countries to adopt OSINT as a separate discipline, and also sponsored the three NATO documents on OSINT.
“I can say that even during what was done and the establishment of an ‘OSINT’ cell in the SHAPE Int staff, I never thought that anyone had it fully ‘right’. By that I mean, when the OSINT cell was raised in SHAPE, all they did was collect open source information, mainly from print media like Jane’s, the Economist Intelligence Unit and Stratfor, and feed it to the small analytical staff. There was no analyizing the open source information in its own right and producing ‘real’ OSINT from it. … The process, to my mind, simply stopped at “OSINFO” and never got to “OSINT”.”I agree with that. With the exception of InfoSphere AB in Sweden (which uses the SILOBREAKER information toolkit), I know of no one that actually produces OSINT, and I certainly include the CIA OSC and all of the contractors supporting all of the USG elements paying lip service to OSINT in the non-performance group. They do OSINF, not OSINT.
There are stellar performers in specific niches – Bob Heibel in academia, Crisis Mappers in civil society, Mary Ellen Bates and Ran Hock in teaching information brokerage, Mats Bjore (InfoSphere CEO) in commerce, the US Special Operations Command (J-23), Scotland Yard SO-11, Janes and then Oxford Analytica under Alfred Rolington, and the Red Cross (34 wars at a time) – but generally, OSINT is simply not done. Jim goes on to say: “If I was king of the world, I would build an OSINT organization to rival existing national SIGINT organizations (CSEC in Canada, NSA in US) and HUMINT organizations (CSIS in Canada, CIA in US). This OSINT organization would be in a number of big buildings around the country, tapped into all the sources you have long written about (media, experts, academia … all tribes) AND they would produce magnificent ‘single source’ OSINT products that could be added to SIGINT, HUMINT, IMINT etc. products at the national level.”
This is of course precisely what I have been trying to get started for 20 years, with the major change being that in the past ten years I have come to realize that OSINT without OpenBTS, Open Cloud, Open Data, Open Hardware, Open Spectrum, Open Standards…all the opens, is too subject to the corruption that pervades our entire society. OPEN is the antidote, but OSINT alone will not do it.
– Cameras and sensors are monitoring us already, and there is a growing tendency of utilizing these systems to punish people for various types of offense. To what extent do we need technical law enforcement? What should be left in human hands?
– Zero tolerance is ultimately fascism. Who makes the rules? Micro-management is what Gary North and the Libertarians call an Administrative State. These technologies result from bribes to Congress that move money to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and thence to local law enforcement. Federal money has in my view destroyed law enforcement across America the Beautiful. Today we have constant surveillance that is not processed, and SWAT teams, instead of cops on the beat and community-based policing. It’s insane. I pray for some form of revolution in the USA, one that shuts down all federal waste, all federal borrowing, and all federal intrusion below the state level into social issues.