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Consumer Technologies Have Become National Technical Means

May 17, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Many of the long-sought goals of ubiquitous intelligence data already have been achieved by the commercial sector, and nations must adjust to this new reality, according to an industry expert. A user community of 1 billion people is providing imagery and other data that both removes secrecy and provides vital information that governments can use-for better or worse. Michael T. Jones, chief technology advocate for Google Ventures, described how this new capability is changing access to information during an address at Joint Warfighting 2012 in Virginia Beach. So much open-source information is now available that a clever use can sort through it to obtain information that rivals some of the best intelligence available through dedicated sources. "What if companies like Google were to become national technical means? It's not a hypothetical question-it's happening now," he declared. Jones explained how individual users provided all the information necessary to generate an accurate map of Manila, Philippines, where no such information previously existed. Even Osama bin Laden's compound in Abottabad, Pakistan, was outlined in detail two years before the U.S. raid-although no one knew what it was at the time. Other projects loom, and the military should learn from this use of consumer data. "If a consumer company can build these things on the side, why can't you?" he asked of the military.

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