The major technology companies could have more national security data than the federal government, according to a panel of experts at The Heritage Foundation.
When the FBI or local police department gets stuck trying to solve their latest robbery or murder, they might want to check with Facebook – or Google – or Amazon or Apple. Chances are one of the big tech firms has clues law enforcement doesn't.
At a recent symposium given by The Heritage Foundation, senior research fellow Klon Kitchen said the burden and capability for national security is shifting to the private sector. "What we have always traditionally called intelligence – the ability to collect, understand, predict and ultimately influence human behavior – Google calls that marketing," he explained.
Facebook, Amazon, Google, and the other big tech companies collect reams of information about consumers – because consumers volunteer the information.
"The first question in terms of what do these companies know about us: quite a bit," Kitchen continued. "And they know it because we give it to them. And we give it to them in return for services and tools. And they're pretty great services and tools."
According to the tech policy expert, these companies sometimes team up with law enforcement to help them solve crimes and bolster national security. A doorbell camera, for example, can be used to track the movement of a suspect's car as it passes a house; or the police can look at cell phone tower data to see where an individual has been over the last few days.
"They have come up with an ability to gain access to that information and to leverage that information in ways that are, frankly, novel; and that, in many ways, surpass what the government has historically been able to do," he added.
Kitchen is Heritage's first senior fellow for technology, national security, and science policy.