A Global Assault On Anonymity
The growing sophistication of data-mining and data-sharing technology has added a sense of urgency to the debate on government surveillance of U.S. citizens in the name of homeland security, with civil liberty proponents arguing that privacy protections should be built into such programs at the outset.
Data-mining initiatives designed to identify suspected terrorists or terrorist activity, such as the Total Information Awareness project and the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, were heavily criticized by civil libertarians who feared their potential for privacy abuse, as well as by technologist groups such as the Association for Computing Machinery, which cited technical problems.
A less public data search tool used by federal agencies to identify foreign terrorists or American citizens linked to foreign terrorism is the Verity K2 Enterprise System, which was mentioned in a recent Government Accountability Office report. The tool can focus on a wide array of sources–internal intelligence databases, Web sites, data flowing across agency-monitored communications networks, etc.–and index the results from these sources, alerting investigators when data pertinent to an inquiry is found.
Meanwhile, the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) system has drawn considerable fire and been rejected by 11 or the original 16 participating U.S. states for reasons of cost or privacy.
Law enforcement officials argue that MATRIX merely accelerates the time it takes to study arrest records, addresses, driver’s license details, and other publicly available information that would be routinely checked in the course of investigations.
Nevertheless, the ACLU has filed a privacy infringement lawsuit against the MATRIX program in Michigan. Some researchers think that the debate between opponents and supporters of data-mining and data-sharing programs has ignored the need to find a middle ground between privacy and security.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the CNet (10/20/04); Borland, John; Lemos, Robert .