1/08/2010

Google v. Intelligence

The London Telegraph asks the question "So Google is better than US intelligence?"...
So this means that the US government’s computers apparently don’t have an equivalent of Google’s “Did You Mean?” tool that picks up misspellings and finds results for similar words.

If it had been realised immediately that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has a valid US visa then presumably the alarm bells would have begun to ring weeks before he actually flew – but they believed he had no visa because the State Department database or whatever database it was could only recognise a particular version of an Arabic name.
Of course, had the Telegraph used Google they could have discovered the following:

1) The FBI's Upgrade That Wasn't: $170 Million Bought an Unusable Computer System
"The nation's premier law enforcement and counterterrorism agency, burdened with one of the government's most archaic computer systems, would have to start from scratch."
2) Lawmaker: Terrorism info database troubled
"Severe technical troubles, poor management of contractors and weak government oversight have put the federal government’s efforts to enhance and upgrade its primary terrorist identity database at risk..."
3) Pink Slips, Spyblogs, and More New Year’s Resolutions for the Intelligence Community
"There is no practical reason why the IC could not immediately adopt a “living intelligence” model that gets vetted and valid intelligence into the hands of consumers in near-real-time — not weeks or months after-the-fact. Such a model would actually allow analysts more time to think about the problems at hand, rather than following dated, time-wasting protocols. What hinders progress in this area is Intelligence Community management that is more concerned with getting credit than serving the intelligence needs of consumers."
4) Credit Where It's Due
2010: The United States Government revokes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's visa a mere 12 days after he tries to kill 300 people.

2002: The United States Government approves Mohammed Atta's visa six months after he's actually killed 3,000 people - and is, in fact, himself deceased.
So, is Google better than US Intelligence? I think a quick search of Google would point to the fact that has been public for a long time. Many of the agencies in question have had major problems using and improving new technologies to make their jobs easier. Free market internet companies will always have greater ability to out-perform government bureaucracies when it comes to these technologies.

So the answer to the semi-rhetorical quesiton is....YES!

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