The Economist Magazine 13th August 2021 The great hope of the 1990s and 2000s was that the internet would be a force for openness and freedom. As Stew art Brand, a pioneer of online communities , put it: “Information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time .” It was not to be. Bad information often drove out good. Authoritarian states coopted the technologies that were supposed to loosen their grip. Information was wielded as a weapon of war. Amid this disappointment one development offers cause for fresh hope: the emerging er a of opensource intelligence (osint). New sensors , from humdrum dashboard camer as to satellites that can see across the electromagnetic spectrum, are examining the planet and its people as never before (see Briefing). The information they collect is becoming cheaper.
Satellite images cost several thousand dollars 20 years ago, today they are often provided free and are of incompar ably higher quality . A photograph of an y spot on Earth, of a strick en tank er or the routes taken by joggers in a city is a vailable with a few clicks . And online communities and collaborative tools, like Slack, enable hobbyists and experts to use this cornucopia of information to solve riddles and unearth misdeeds with astonishing speed. Human Rights Watch has analysed satellite imagery to document ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Nano satellites tag the automatic identification system of vessels that are fishing illegally. Amateur sleuths have helped Euro pol, the European Union’s policing agency, investigate child sexual exploitation by identifying geographical clues in the background of photographs. Even hedge funds routinely track the movements of company executives in private jets, monitored by a web of amateurs around the world, to predict mergers and acquisitions. osint thus bolsters civil society , strengthens law enforcement and makes markets more efficient. It can also humble some of the world’s most powerful countries. The Economist Magazine 13th August 2021Download Now