Our Inescapable Forensically Exposed Future

Over the past several decades, we've all had our share of learning about crime forensics on television with shows like "Quincy," and "CSI," and networks like TruTV and Investigation Discovery. In the television world of forensics, science, technology, ingenuity, sleuthing and good luck always seemed to come together at just the right moment to find the needle-in-the-haystack physical clue that solved the puzzle, helped investigators recreate lost events of years before and caught the criminal.

Well, get ready everyone, the TV world of forensics is now becoming mainstream, and forensically recreated pasts are in our future.

Today we spend most of our time with digital devices that see, store, organize and deliver data related to much of what we do to computer storage servers. So many of the essential tools in our lives -- phones, voice mail, computers, email, automated tellers, music devices, security systems, credit cards, trains, planes -- are operated by or capture enormous amounts of data relevant to our interactions with them.

As I've written before, most of our lives today are public, and will stay public, whether we like it or not. This means not only will what we do be public record, with folks all around the world able to know what we've done soon after we've done it, but what we do today is going to be known in the future as well, most likely in extraordinarily more detail then than it will be knowable now. Data about a phone call today might reveal who you spoke with and when. In the future it will be linked to dozens of specific behaviors that the call may have caused -- think the Galleon stock trades tied to cell phone records, but on steroids.

The forensic sleuths of the future will have today's data about what we've done along with newly discovered data, gathered by "data bots" unearthing, deciphering and organizing information from the past. Plus, more importantly, they will have tomorrow's technologies to piece that data together with deep degrees of accuracy we can't even imagine today.

Who in the 1920s could have imagined that hair samples captured and stored then would help to solve their era's crimes 90 years later, thanks to modern DNA techniques? Just imagine: In 2030, there may no longer be any unsolved crimes left from 2012. Future technology will have leveraged the data exhausts we create today and given them a perfect rear-view mirror into everything we did.

The same for the secret affairs of today. In 20 years we will probably have comprehensive databases, available to all, which can discover, pinpoint and pair the coordinated movements of any two people. We will know exactly which people were together when, where and for how long. Techniques like automated facial recognition will have long since matured and mainstreamed, making video and still photos of people as identifiable as if they had stamped their DNA indicators on their foreheads.

I doubt this kind of future generally surprises many of you. We all know, I think, that the digital networked future will usher in a world with much less personal privacy. However, how many of you have thought about the fact that the diminution of your privacy and the expansion of your publicness will be retroactive? In the future, everyone will be both forensic investigators like Quincy, with events from the past revealed and recreated, forever exposed and never forgettable. We will all be able to recreate the past -- not just any past, but all of our pasts.

What do you think? Are you ready to have all of your "today" forensically and publicly exposed tomorrow?



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