Does the NSA mistakenly believe you’re a terrorist? It’s possible. After all, a “false positive” is an erroneous ‘positive’ diagnosis resulting from testing inaccuracies. It is true that the test will accurately measure 99 percent of terrorists who take it—but it’s false that 99 percent of “positive results” are terrorists. Just how rare are terrorists in America? Between 2001 and 2011, there were 207 attempted terrorist attacks in America, which is an average of 20.7 per year. If we cautiously assume 20 individuals were involved per attack, that would mean there were 414 terrorists in America per year. This also equates to one in 624,297 Americans being a terrorist.
With the help of Bayes Theorem, we can determine there’s a 99.98416 percent false positive—probability of not being a terrorist given a ‘positive’ test result. Surprised? The higher the rarity, the more false results—despite an accurate test. In order for the NSA to have a 94 percent probability of actually finding a terrorist with a ‘positive’ result, the NSA testing methods would have to reach 99.9999 percent accuracy, which is equivalent to the accuracy of a DNA test.
These are a lot of numbers thrown at you—and some assumptions are made. What you really need to remember is this: never say anything (NSA) online! To learn more, check out the infographic below presented by TopComputerScienceDegrees.com.
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