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New CRS Report on Data Mining

Thanks to Docuticker for pointing out this new Congressional Research Report on Federal data mining efforts:

Data Mining and Homeland Security: An Overview (PDF; 231 KB)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Aside from cataloging currently known datamining efforts by the federal government, the report identifies four areas of concern:

As with other aspects of data mining, while technological capabilities are important, there are other implementation and oversight issues that can influence the success of a project’s outcome. One issue is data quality, which refers to the accuracy and completeness of the data being analyzed. A second issue is the interoperability of the data mining software and databases being used by different agencies. A third issue is mission creep, or the use of data for purposes other than for which the data were originally collected. A fourth issue is privacy. Questions that may be considered include the degree to which government agencies should use and mix commercial data with government data, whether data sources are being used for purposes other than those for which they were originally designed, and possible application of the Privacy Act to these initiatives.

I’ve heard people say that data mining by the government is no big deal since advertisers and other corporate interests do it all the time in efforts to focus marketing and improve profits. If we don’t have privacy from corporate types, why should the government worry us? Because ratty data used by a marketer might result in a bald man getting shampoo ads, but when the government relies on ratty data for law enforcement, innocent people can get jailed or harrassed.

Hopefully Congress will be more vigilant on this issue.


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