The Ethical and Legal Implications of Information Systems

Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness

Digital technologies have given people many new capabilities that simplify and expedite the collection of personal information. Every time a person comes into contact with digital technologies, information about that person is being made available. From location to web-surfing habits, your criminal record to your credit report, you are constantly being monitored. This information can then be aggregated to create profiles of each person. While much of the information collected was available in the past, collecting it and combining it took time and effort. Today, detailed information about a person is available for purchase from different companies. Even information not categorized as PII can be aggregated in such a way that an individual can be identified.

This process of collecting large quantities of a variety of information and then combining it to create profiles of individuals is known as Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness, or NORA. First commercialized by big casinos looking to find cheaters, NORA is used by both government agencies and private organizations, and it is big business.

Non-obvious relationship awareness (NORA)

In some settings NORA can bring many benefits such as in law enforcement. By being able to identify potential criminals more quickly, crimes can be solved sooner or even prevented before they happen. But these advantages come at a price, namely, our privacy.