The Hybridization of Profiling

The argument of the war on terror has come to justify the enlargement and the increasing of the number of categories of people and groups likely to cause “breach of the peace.” Repeated reforms of the penal code, of the code of criminal procedure and of law concerning intelligence signal how multifaceted the listing and classification of sentences, suspects and real or perceived enemies from within are.

Here the positivistic notion of dangerousness is at the very heart of this justice-police dispositif. Such a notion entails a memory of repression that is also a memory of class. It has taken part in the development of the dispositifs of surveillance that, since the invention of anthropometry during the second half of the nineteenth century, fuelled the old technocratic dream of an actuarial society fully governed by the statistical reason and capable of controlling/disciplining the “dangerous classes.” This may explain why the imaginary that feeds the contemporary executive powers’ security obsession for civil disobedience and deviance is so close to the imaginary distilled by Gustave LeBon’s psychology of the crowd, inevitably delinquent;30 Cesare Lombroso’s thesis on the born criminal biotype; and the prophylactic philosophy of “social defense” of the pion- neers of fingerprinting.31 Incidentally, the old demons of the genetic management of populations are never too far.

Testing, sorting, compiling files and building biological indicators aiming to grasp people’s behaviours in order to determine the probability of a particular conduct is an approach that reduces the citizen-subject to a measure-individual and that goes beyond the traditional limits of the field of justice and spreads through other sectors such as health, education or immigration. What is visible today is a mode of government built on traceability—of all and in all sectors (see Bonditti in this volume). Keeping everyone and everything on file has become the norm so that anyone who escapes the field of vision of tracking systems is potentially guilty.

Additionally, any prospective on the evolutions of the modes of control in a digital environment cannot spare itself the trouble of also isolating their commercial objectives in addition to their security purposes. Although profiling has long been the states’ domain, it certainly is no longer. Actors of the so-called global market, whose economic model is based on marketing logics (see Hibou in this volume), never cease to track their customers and multiply data banks filled with personal information. Private companies have indeed emerged as monopoles based on the capitation and commercial exploitation of personal data by offering free services and encouraging people to participate in social networks. It is becoming increasingly clear that the innovations that they never cease to introduce in the tracking of customers directly impact on the limits of what we have come to understand as privacy. Recent revelations by Edward Snowden regarding the collaborations between private (Internet) companies and the (military) agency in charge of electronic and signal intelligence within the US Administration (the famous NSA) remind us that the state and its apparatuses are never too far from the ultraliberal logics at play, especially when they govern the global trade of personal data in the contemporary context of a highly integrated global capitalism.

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