Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Data-mining program dropped

The Department of Homeland Security has dropped one of its most ambitious data-mining projects after determining that it was cumbersome and had violated privacy rules.

Known as ADVISE and begun in 2003, the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement program was developed by the department and the Lawrence Livermore and Pacific Northwest national laboratories for use by many DHS components, including immigration, customs, border protection, biological defense and its intelligence office.

The problems: They tested it for two years with real data instead of made-up data, violating privacy rules; and analysts found it "cumbersome" to use. Translation: it didn't work as intended.

Which has always been my problem with data-mining. It's great in theory, and I have no philosophical problem with it if personally identifiable information is protected. But the privacy worries are real -- this was the second data-mining project to violate privacy rules -- and connecting the dots turns out to be far more difficult than envisioned.

We should keep working on such systems to perfect them. But there should be two caveats: a sort of "proof of concept" that data-mining actually works, and strict privacy protections so that ordinary people don't find their data being bandied about by government bureaucrats.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think privacy is a thing of the past. Whatever the rhetoric that's paraded around by politicians, I have little to no expectation of privacy anymore. This doesn't mean that I don't think we SHOULD have privacy, nor am I complacent.
Fear-mongering has been an effective tool in usurping our rights.
- Caracarn

9/05/2007 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wonder what Dems think of the "data-mining" done by their own party for political purposes? Wonder what they think of Harold Ickes' Data Warehouse, which is a data-mining operation? Perhaps they think it's okay for political purposes, but not for purposes of trying to catch terrorists? I'm sure they have some double standard and rationalization for why one is okay and the other is not.

"Ickes said his new venture, Data Warehouse, will at first seek to sell its targeting information to politically active unions and liberal interest groups, rather than campaigns.

As it stands now, the DNC and Data Warehouse, created by Ickes and Democratic operative Laura Quinn, will separately try to build vast and detailed voter lists -- each effort requiring sophisticated expertise and costing well over $10 million.

"From an institutional standpoint, this is one of the most important things the DNC can and should do. Building this voter file is part of our job," Communications Director Karen Finney said. "We believe this is something we have to do at the DNC. Our job is to build the infrastructure of the party."


9/06/2007 11:53 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

The growing availability of electronic databases does, indeed, pose challenges to traditional notions of privacy. But as I've said, I don't have a philosophical problem with data-mining per se. I just want it done right, with due respect for privacy.

There's also a difference between building a database out of publicly available information, where the major downside i being annoyed by sales pitches, and building a database incorporating all sorts of public and private information, where the major downside is having government agents knock on your door. There's a much higher requirement to "get it right" in the latter case.

9/06/2007 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, yes....there is a higher requirement to "get it right." But to believe that the gov't is going to be knocking on "your" door is to believe that the gov't is interested in wasting precious time with those who have absolutely no connection to terrorism. I don't happen to believe that. Nor do I think we should tie their hands on anything that might help catch the bad guys BEFORE they act. Saying they can't do something the Democrat and Republican party does or that businesses do.... would be ridiculous.


9/07/2007 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But to believe that the gov't is going to be knocking on "your" door is to believe that the gov't is interested in wasting precious time with those who have absolutely no connection to terrorism. I don't happen to believe that."

To believe that the government (Democratic, Republican, whatever) is not and will not take every chance they get to seize more power is naive. The government WILL, and HAS, use(d) newfound powers (i.e. the Patriot Act) for purposes outside the strict realm of counter-terrorism. Freedom of thought and expression is being eroded, and another terrorist attack could mark the end of such if things keep up this way. Fear is a most useful political tool. This has been known for a long time.
- Caracarn

9/10/2007 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But with today's technology....the internet, cell phones,e-mails, Instant Messaging, not allow our intelligence officials to have the SAME advantages that international criminals AND terrorists use would be making a huge mistake.

Recently, a 24-year old Russian computer whiz, who had never been to the U.S. before----managed to do some data mining on his computer and steal identities of U.S. citizens along with millions of dollars from them. ALL from the comfort of his bedroom in Moscow!! To our knowledge he wasn't into terrorism....but what he can do; they can surely do. The authorities were able to get him to come to the U.S.----and be arrested---ONLY because they were able to pose as one of his contacts on-line. They had to be allowed to do the things they did....or else they would have never caught him.

So, why should we tie the hands of our intelligence and officials who are trying to catch the bad guys? The days of worrying so much about the gov't misusing such information against political opponents or ordinary innocent citizens is long past. Their are too many ways they would eventually get caught doing things like that. We're past the day of Watergate.


9/10/2007 7:00 PM  

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