“TrapWire is a counter-terrorism technology company that produces a homonymous predictive software system designed to find patterns indicative of terrorism attacks” (Wikipedia). According to Wikileaks information this program takes information gathered from video cameras in major cities (Washington DC and Seattle are mentioned by name) and provides the ability to detect persons, or suspicious behavior. Wikileaks also revealed that TrapWire is owned by the company Abraxas which is staffed by ex-CIA members with a lot of experience and time in the CIA.

Consider a few of these cases through the eye of common sense and rule utilitarianism.

If a city has a warrant to surveil a person, TrapWire allows the process to be mostly automated within city limits saving the city time and money. This appears to be a legally and morally (again, rule utilitarianism) right because the city received a warrant through the judicial process which is supposed to err on the side of caution with respect to a citizens rights

Now consider a crime that has been committed and the police find a suspect. The suspect is convicted because TrapWire tracked his movements back showing motive and premeditation resulting in the death penalty. In this case it seems that TrapWire is functioning to illegally surveil the suspect because the city never received a warrant through the judicial process before hand to track the suspect. On the other hand, if the city were to piece together the same information by looking through every video camera in the city, would that be considered good sleuthing? Now the rule utilitarian has to start creating a lot of sub-rules to handle these situations specifically.

If the judicial process could be trusted then authorities using TrapWire would be doing so in a manner that would be applicable in all situations. But who’s watching the watchers?

2 Responses to Trapwire