* * *
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In the future, the Minuteman software system listens to all phone calls,
reads all messages, watches everything, to keep Americans safe... but
what happens when it mis-hears what someone says?
Privacy Most Public
addresses the age old question-- Who's watching the watchers?
Privacy Most Public
by Andrew Burt
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Despite the background noise, it distinctly sounded like
The Sentry had already noted the word "President" and the use
of the future tense--this was definitely interesting. It spun off a
thread to begin analysis.
The Sentry's data described that circuit as an audio-only cell
phone, on hook and in listen mode; an unremarkable apartment in San
Diego among the hundreds of millions of rooms that the Sentries
monitored constantly. The datastream had a considerable amount of
background noise that made it hard to resolve words, so the Sentry
understood why it couldn't be certain.
Try the standard set of filters to disprove, but clear the
automatic purge flag to save the earlier "historical" data from the
The filters didn't help, it still sounded like Oswald; maybe.
Nonetheless: President, future tense, possibly Oswald--that was
enough to warrant upgrading to Do Not Discard.
The Sentry listened.
Crack-tssszzzzzz! The egg spread out evenly over the griddle
until the white almost touched the sizzling bacon.
"I couldn't agree more," Emery DeFreece said, cracking another
egg onto the griddle, "he's just dragging the country down, and I'd
like to see something to stop it." Talking around a bite of toast,
he continued, "I mean, Varnell's old, he's obviously incompetent, he
could probably get sick and die any time anyway. But, it's not like
we're swimming in options."
"Yeah, they sure won't impeach him," Rod Maritz said from the
kitchen table, continuing his roommate's thought. "It'd take years
the way they move in Congress, by then his term's up, and I doubt
he'd be healthy enough to last another eight years. Besides, you
don't get to be President without having a lot of powerful friends.
I mean, we can mouth off all we want, but unless we take control,
our sorry asses are stuck on this train 'til the end of the line.
Like you said, where's an Oswald when you need him." He swallowed
the rest of his orange juice and stood up. "I need some more juice,
man, and hurry up with those eggs--I gotta get going. I've got
plans for today, named Alyssa."
* * *
"Oswald." There it was again in the other voice, clearer this
time; more future tense; and implied action. Oswald, President,
future, action--the Sentry upgraded this dataset's state to Analyze:
Increment the "save" flag from temporary to permanent, enqueue it
for a Bloodhound, create a thread to locate any of the prior
minute's data that might be untouched in the "least recently used"
buffer list, and keep listening.
As the Sentry continued its vigil, the Bloodhound Evidence
Correlation module pulled the next item from its list, this one from
a phone sentry, high priority. The Bloodhound set to work,
methodically gathering data together to help the Minuteman Criminal
Defense System determine if this was what the humans called a "live
one"; or, as usual, one of the endless sets of harmless remarks,
misunderstandings, or even movie dialogue. But hot or cold, every
scent must be tracked. The Bloodhound pressed onward.
Probable match on voices to registered tenants of designated
apartment, Maritz, R. (eight months of one year lease), and
DeFreece, E. (four months). No prior datasets for same location.
Valid driver's licenses. Minor traffic citations, Maritz. Auto
insurance lapsed, Maritz. Employer files: Frequent job changes;
nothing unusual. Current occupations: Cuisine Delivery Artist
(synonym-linked to "waiter") at Tuck's on the River, DeFreece;
Remote Installer III at The Custom DashWorks, Maritz. Nothing
unusual. No criminal convictions. Multiple juvenile arrests,
Maritz, records off-line. Noted. Not on known list of suspected
terrorists, smugglers, foreign agents, etc., at least by name or
similarly sounding or spelled names. The Bloodhound looked up
physical characteristics of the likely voices, matched those against
similar lists; nothing found. Other physical databases: Facial
match on Maritz, numerous peaceable anti-government demonstrations.
Financial accounts past and present: Low balances, no large
deposits on record, no large withdrawals, profile of recent activity
consistent with prior activity. Scan for unusual recent purchases
via the sales tax tracking system--the Bloodhound noted two
transactions at department stores known to sell weapons and
ammunition. Also, a dataset from a bookseller, marked "decrypt only
for probable cause." Noted.
Newspaper/magazine subscriptions, paper and electronic, indexed
by name or mailing address: Nothing unusual... nothing
unusual...--three months into year's subscription to Take the
Streets, this address; estimated readership 4,000, topic:
anti-government / revolutionary, a publication flagged as "always
include for probable cause / escalate priority." The Bloodhound
included this item in the case dataset and executed what some witty
programmer had coded as the statement, "raise(eyebrow)." As
instructed, the Bloodhound immediately submitted this case to the
Magistrate module as medium priority, then continued the quest for
more incriminating data.
Though the Bloodhound was a sophisticated electronic detective,
capable of collecting data from seemingly limitless sources,
efficiently sniffing for details that might be relevant to a
dataset, it was without the logic to resolve whether a case had
merit--thus it fell to the Magistrate to decide if a potential
breach of law was involved. The Magistrate was by far the most
complex software module in the system, responsible for determining
whether to alert the humans about a potential crime, but neither
wasting their time on false alarms nor overlooking a serious
incident. The Magistrate, indeed the entire Minuteman system, was a
software work of art.
Thus, inside that same few seconds, with the conversation still
echoing in the heads of the two young men enjoying a Sunday morning
breakfast, the Magistrate dequeued the case and set to work.
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