Could it happen again? Of course it could. It already is. Here is an extract from John Koehler’s authoritative book Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police.
“The Stasi was much, much worse than the Gestapo, if you consider only the oppression of its own people,” according to Simon Wiesenthal of Vienna, Austria, who has been hunting Nazi criminals for half a century. “The Gestapo had 40,000 officials watching a country of 80 million, while the Stasi employed 102,000 to control only 17 million.” One might add that the Nazi terror lasted only twelve years, whereas the Stasi had four decades in which to perfect its machinery of oppression, espionage, and international terrorism and subversion.
Algorithms can learn. Algorithms can acquire bias. In The Black Box Society: How Secret Algorithms Control Money and Information, eminent Law Professor Frank Pasquale exposes the invasive technology running our lives. In The Age of Terror these systems can be used to extend the control of dark agencies into every corner of our lives. Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior-silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. The data compiled and portraits created are incredibly detailed and invasive. But who connects the dots about what firms are doing with this information? The Black Box Society argues that we all need to be able to do so-and to set limits on how big data affects our lives.