The National Surveillance State 2.0

May 1st, 2013

Lisa McElroy and I wrote a new piece on HuffPost Politics about the interplay between surveillance, social media, and privacy in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings. The very same connectedness of society that helped to apprehend the killers also may have frustrated the ensuing manhunt. Here is a sample of National Surveillance State 2.0.

The most powerful surveillance network in Boston helped to apprehend the Boston Marathon bombers. This unblinking and omniscient eye was not operated by the state, however; instead, private security cameras, in conjunction with a citizen army equipped with iPhones and Androids, were able to record the mayhem wrought in Copley Square. These shared recordings, which could be obtained without any concerns for the judicial process or the Fourth Amendment, aided the police in identifying, cornering, and catching the brothers Tsarnaev.

Within seconds of the explosion at the finish line, eyewitnesses used social media to share photographs of the scene, and even videos of the blast. Minutes later, a cyber-militia crowdsourced images. Even so, while the police welcomed the help of these cyber sleuths and the wisdom of the crowds in gathering evidence — facial-recognition technology “came up empty” — they opposed real-time reporting of the manhunt on Twitter.