Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Google executives say technology can be harnessed to fight drug cartels in Mexico

By Eric Schmidt and and Jared Cohen

Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Google and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Jared Cohen is director of Google Ideas and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. They are writing a book about the digital future and this week convened the Google Ideas summit “Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition.

A couple of months ago we visited Juarez, Mexico, a city right across our border — yet so far away.

The scene was almost surreal: We got off the plane and were met on the tarmac by a convoy of armored cars and open-back trucks swarming with police. The officers were “policía federal.” Like the ones you hear about, they carried machine guns and wore masks to hide their identities. They hung off the backs of their trucks, alert, constantly swiveling as they surveyed the landscape.
They were looking for violent criminals. Meanwhile, everyone we met with — civil society leaders, nonprofit activists, private-sector officials and young people — was looking around for answers.
Their city has been overwhelmed by crime, their lives overcome with fear. They felt defeated, disillusioned and a little helpless. They asked us: What can we do?
And to us, at least part of the answer was obvious: technology.
The cartels that roam Juarez are savvy. Smugglers wear GPS bracelets so they can be tracked — the same blue dots that help smartphone users get from A to B are blipping along in the service of kingpins and their associates.
We know that technology can be used more potently for good. As more people around the globe become connected, they see, read and hear more. Greater access leads to stronger demands for accountability. We believe the spread of modern devices and access for those most threatened will create a virtual, albeit nascent, counterweight against the world’s worst criminals. Even stubborn governments will one day have to meet their citizens’ rising expectations.
Yet connectivity will not, on its own, disrupt illicit networks. People tend to assume that “name and shame” will fix things — as though, once a video of wrongdoing is uploaded, the world will pressure the bad guys. It’s clear that external pressure seldom fixes weak or corrupt institutions. As we watch violence unfold in Syria, more than video is clearly needed. The pressure has to be internal, from those who are directly affected and have the incentives and mechanisms to fundamentally reshape the world they live in.
Consider an all-too-familiar situation in Juarez: A man cooperates with law enforcement — or is believed to have cooperated — and his wife is subsequently targeted. Many people are aware of such occurrences but do not report it, thinking: Why take the risk when the chance of meaningful change is so low? Some version of this plays out every day in Mexico.
When people think about speaking out in the face of fear, they almost always do so in pre-Internet terms. Victims find individuals or institutions to confide in. Sometimes that institution is online, but the basic interaction model is telephonic or broadcast. The model relies on central authorities with trustworthy track records, broad distribution, charismatic leaders, technical sophistication, and staffs that balance discretion and distribution. Simply put, these criteria do not scale. The system breaks down in environments where retribution is common.

Now, consider a network like the Internet, where sources send out their messages in little pieces — or, packets — each labeled with the address of their destination. Intermediate nodes forward the packets onward, and they are reassembled at the destination. Each link in the network may not have the full message. The transmitter and receiver don’t need to communicate directly or at the same time. They don’t need to know each other’s location. There’s no single point of failure, no rigid hierarchy.
In Juarez, we saw fearful human beings — sources — who need to get their information into the right hands. With our packet-switching mind-set, we realized that there may be a technological workaround to the fear: Sources don’t need to physically turn to corrupt authorities, distant journalists or diffuse nonprofits, and rely on their hope that the possible benefit is worth the risk of exposing themselves.
Technology can help intermediate this exchange, like servers passing packets on the Internet. Sources don’t need to pierce their anonymity. They don’t need to trust a single person or institution. Why can’t they simply throw encrypted packets into the network and let the tools move information to the right destinations?
In a sense, we are talking about dual crowdsourcing: Citizens crowdsource incident awareness up, and responders crowdsource justice down, nearly in real time. The trick is that anonymity is provided to everyone, although such a system would know a unique ID for every user to maintain records and provide rewards. This bare-bones model could take many forms: official and nonprofit first responders, investigative journalists, whistleblowers, neighborhood watches.
Technology is just a tool. The residents of Juarez told us they desperately want technologies that, when used in the right way by the right people, would make a difference. There will be real consequences of trial and error, but we cannot let fear prevent us from innovating. In a world where cartels and criminals are masters of innovation, technology companies can tip the scales over the long run, helping to provide an innovation advantage to those who need it most.

Published in The Washington Post


  1. Wow. These people finally are noticing what's going on? Maybe they will tell their rich friends about how bad Mexico is at dinner, and maybe they will understand why Arizona and other states are asking for help. But realistically, this means nothing. They will say technology will help and then soon they will forget about what is going on down there. And that we on the border who are actually afraid to check our fields, or who live where groups walk through our land, and us who have families down there who are threatened, will be left to be called racists and intolerant for actually fearing the violence will cross over more than it already has. Erik Holder should come live here in Texas or Arizona for a few months and spend some time talking to the people who's family members have "lost their heads". Maybe then he will feel bad he gave them 2000 machine guns free and clear. I swear, Obama has split this nation into segments and made it a clusterfuck. What a liar.

  2. MORALE OF THE STORY: Technology and Big Brother are ALWAYS your friend.

    Yeah, right.

    Mexico needs the right tools in the right hands whether it be a drone taking out a convoy or a neat gadget that does whatever. If you put the right tools in hands of people that ultimately wouldn't use it for its intended purposes, you've solved nothing. That's probably why Mexico hasn't been given (que sepa yo) access to what they need to get the job done. The right hands simply aren't there to put them into.

  3. You think the Zetas can't get drones?

    This Google smart-ass thinks "naming/shaming"
    is going to help? Here's a name:
    ERIC HOLDER. Known Gun Runner for Cartels.

    OK Google, do your thing!! (all BS)
    All this is is GOOG going after the 1984
    Big Brother Surveillance $$$ Tax money.

    When their surveillance then shows them it is
    the police actually doing the killing and the
    drug running, then "oops! That tape seems to be lost!"

    All BS. Anyway, GOOG vs ZETA .. This could get interesting....

    1. 100% agreed. Typical Americans believe news say without stepping.out outside.n looking at who really enables this people in the south.
      NOW WHO CREATED THE ZETAS ? The usa ,to do what? Destabilize Mexico . For what reason ? To Germany resources and be able to take control over Mexico's security. For what? To control resources the US is running out of. Why? BECAUSE THE MIDDLE EAST IS ABOUT TO BE OUT OF.BUSSINESS. STOP BELIEVING FOX NEWS BULLSHIT.OPEN YOUR EYES

  4. It honestly isn°t that bad. I live near the border myself and sure there is a lot of smuggling going on, but it's nothing a little "legalize marijuana" bill can fix. It will reduce their income significantly etc. Supply and demand my friends.

    Yes we need to guard the border for sure also. Which has a 0% migrant crossing now thanks to Obama (dont know if those numbers have changed yet). We just need to beef up a bit more along the shores and inspect all trailers etc.

    America is a safe place for now. Just dont get involved with the wrong people and you will be golden. Dont believe the hype.

  5. MORALE OF THE STORY: Technology and Big Brother are ALWAYS your friend.
    Yeah, right.
    Google are the ones trying to stop us from downloading music from youtube?You can view it on youtube though,along with all them advertizements.Google is trying to stop independant developers,who aint makin money from their own apps,just helping the user to download mp3.Google will want to make money off this shit.1st step,close the independent down by leagal means,2nd step,make our own app and make them use it,3rd step,now pay for the right bitches.
    Trust google?Trust a shark that smells blood in water.Fuck google.

  6. Google are looking at the opportunities to make money.End of story.When did they become socially conscious?They see a buck can be made from their technology and software's.GOOGLE HERE TO HELP?

    1. Do you believe that a human has no heart? Is it not possible for a man of wealth to actually give a shit.

      I myself have more faith here in this concept. Maybe because I have witnessed it before.

  7. Digital snitches get stitches too. If anything, our governments are trying to make internet traffic less anonymous. Any truly anonymous tools would eventually be abused far beyond expectations. Things like this always backfire in the real world, sort of like the drug war in general.

  8. chapo is ceo of google.

  9. Ovemex might have given the Forum's Athena a nod for her tip on the story here like Buggs and Chivis does when they get the story from the forum.

  10. krgv
    might not be cartel related.
    Deputies Raid Home After Crop Duster Shooting Near Delta Lake
    Posted: Jul 18, 2012 11:15 AM
    Updated: Jul 18, 2012 12:18 PM

    NORTH OF EDCOUCH - Hidalgo County Sheriff's investigators raided a house in connection with the shooting of a crop duster this morning.

    The pilot of a crop duster said he was shot at during a flight over the Delta Lake area at approximately 10 a.m.

    The pilot said he saw dust coming from the ground and felt a thump on one of the wings during the attack. He managed to fly the aircraft back to Rowland Duster hangers just off Highway 186 north of Edcouch in Willacy County.

    At least one round damaged one of the plane's wings.

    Deputies armed with assault rifles stormed the house at approximately 11 a.m. as a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter circled above.

    One person was taken into custody.

    Law enforcement officials also converged on a second location north of Monte Alto, just west of FM 88 and South Nittler Road, and took one person into custody.

  11. witnesses said as many as six people abducted young man, was it cartel violence in the USA?
    BREAKING NEWS: Kidnapping Victim Found Shot to Death
    Posted: Jul 18, 2012 1:28 PM

    Updated: Jul 18, 2012 1:30 PM

    BROWNSVILLE - A kidnapping victim in Brownsville was shot to death. Brownsville police are investigating.

    CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the victim is in his early 20s. Authorities know who he is, but they're not releasing his identity at this time. The victim was taken from Mariscos Playa Azul, a restaurant along Military Highway.

    Investigators say the man was pushed into his vehicle and taken from the scene.

    He was later found in his car near Roberta Road and Frontage Road. He had been shot to death.

    CHANNEL 5 NEWS is working to gather the very latest information on this story.

  12. again the person who is receiving the info can and probably is a cartel informant, therefore same ole thing!

  13. @anon 3:07pm

    "Ovemex might have given the Forum's Athena a nod for her tip on the story here like Buggs and Chivis does when they get the story from the forum."......

    Not sure what the issue is, Lo siento amigo, no offense to Athena, but I didn't get it from or even see the forum.

    With that said, I gave due credit to the writers of the report and the newspaper that published it in their opinion section.

  14. The o.g. Capos use old school methods.Like walkie talkies,codes.Constantly change phones.Change cars like 10 times.Dont post videos or email because they know they can be easily tracked.Its only the small guys that do the dumb stuff like posting videos and talking on cell phone.Capos are alot smarter than that.So good luck trying to catch the big fish.

  15. All I gotta say is $$$$$$$ talks and we've got great hackers too :)

  16. Looks more and more like google is just another solely for profit company. If they truly cared long term about America and Mexico, Google would promote legalization; Google, you want to eradicate the cartels? Donate to politicians who legalize; but if you don't want to help the people and you solely want to make profits off an endless war, yes, fight the cartels, not prohibition.

  17. Sounds good but its hard to belive. I find it hard to belive that Eric Schmidt actually went to Juarez two months ago too. But if Google seriously thinks they can fight drug cartels and win then good luck to them. Personally, I dont think they really understand what type of enemmy they are up against, the whole google-thing is weird. I`ll give them the credit they deserve when I see the headline "Google takes out Chapo Gusman".

  18. @ 1:27 Anonymous. I don`t know what part of the border your living (under) on, but the one I live on, in South Texas, is freaking dangerous. Just cause we aren`t having killings daily like Mexico,doesn`t mean things aren`t happening. Go talk to some of these ranchers on the remote ranches and see. Talk to some oilfield hands and see. I personally know of a body in a hole, burned. A woman tied to a tree and disemboweled. A person kidnapped and shot. That`s three things I KNOW of. And in the USA, that`s three too many. That my friend, is spillover violence. It`s spilling over due to trafficking on this side and the people that are on this side in the business. You act like their is some great imaginary wall that separates the land between the US and MExico. Guess what, the landscape all looks the same on both sides. Same kind of trees, same grass, same people. So a few miles of distance isn`t stopping these people from doing what they do. It just happens to be the name of the country makes things seem worse

  19. Look, I work here in San Diego. During the 2007 wildfires all the big IT vendors rushed here to "help". We had Google, Microsoft, and CISCO response teams in the emergency centers. Then after the fires, all the companies made big sales pitches for us to buy their shit. And shit it (mostly) was. This is a for profit move, nothing more, and technology is not going to win this war.

    I too, seriously doubt he went to Juarez, or if he did in a highly guarded photo shoot for 3 minutes.

  20. "NOW WHO CREATED THE ZETAS ? The usa ,to do what? Destabilize Mexico"


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