Where do you stand on profiling? In the aftermath of 9/11, Boston Bombings, Sandyhook Elementary School Massacre, the outcry against guns (what type, who should be allowed to own one, how many bullets you can have in a magazine), airport screening, the argument about profiling always raises its ugly head. Proponents say it is necessary to protect against threats; opponents say it is unfair, undemocratic, leads to racial profiling, and violates our constitutional rights.
Every minute of every day you are being profiled.
Regardless of where you come down on this issue, every minute of every day you are being profiled. What exactly is profiling? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “the act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendencies; specifically: the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior .” Dictionary.com says, “1. the use of personal characteristics or behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person, as in gender profiling. 2. the use of these characteristics to determine whether a person may be engaged in illegal activity, as in racial profiling.” The Oxford Dictionary comes closest to reality: “the recording and analysis of a person’s psychological and behavioral characteristics, so as to assess or predict their capabilities in a certain sphere or to assist in identifying a particular subgroup of people.
I attended the Tech Activist 2013 Conference (TechExpo) in Seattle yesterday. It was put together to teach political activists how to use technology to get their message out. While it was designed with Republicans in mind, because we are very bad on conveying principles, ideas and messages, there were plenty of Democrats in attendance. I will just say that the Democrats have got this use of technology down. They clean our clocks. Hats off to them, but we are going to catch up.
The TechExpo was an all day conference broken up into 45 minute segments with four offerings per hour and, surprisingly, no duplication in the offerings. I found three outstanding. The first was a presentation by Ben Jones of Tableau Software, who demonstrated their public (free) software that creates visualizations of data. Translation:: it takes Excel spreadsheet data and easily and fast creates colored charts of that mass of data, helping people to see and understand the data. The second was a talk given by Matt Rosenberg of Public Eye Northwest, regarding the necessity of transparency in government. He has a project entitled Public Data Ferret, wherein articles written without a partisan basis, on strictly sourced data, strive to give the public the information they so desperately crave and need. The third brought the two men together to show how you could access public data records, i.e., Labor & Statistics, and then create easily understood visuals of that data. I was delighted to see this partnership and how beautifully the two concepts work together. Yet, it was watching the demonstration that made me truly realize we are being profiled 24/7. Each snippet of data broke us out by race, gender, age. Any conceivable group you would want to target can easily be crafted from the data and it is, each and every minute of every day. Think of the commercials you watch, the email and online advertisements that bombard you, whether it is Yahoo.com, Facebook, or Amazon or any other business or government entity which wants your attention and business. And, we haven’t even broached the number of cameras that take your picture every minute of every day you are outside and driving around, shopping, banking, having a cup of coffee. You are being profiled each and every minute of every day.