Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/05/28/us_gov_data_mining/

TIA lives? Report lists US gov 'dataveillance' activities

Multiple Total Information Awareness?

By John Lettice

Posted in Media, 28th May 2004 15:52 GMT

A report on US government data mining indicates that the Total Information Awareness project, cancelled last year, is in some senses alive and well. The General Accounting Office lists a total of 199 projects, 122 of which use personal information and 54 of which use data from the private sector. The largest number of the projects have improvement in performance or service as a stated objective, but the GAO lists 14 "analyzing intelligence and detecting terrorist activities", and 15 "detecting criminal activities or patterns."

The report was requested by Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka following controversy around TIA, and Akaka comments: "I am disturbed by the high number of data mining activities in the federal government involving personal information. The federal government collects and uses Americans' personal information and shares it with other agencies to an astonishing degree, raising serious privacy concerns. I doubt if the American public realizes the extent to which the federal government collects and uses their personal information and the degree to which their information is shared with other agencies."

He added that the report's findings demonstrated the need for policies and safeguards such as those recommended earlier this month by the Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee.

The complete record of federal data mining activities (obviously, non-federal ones such as MATRIX aren't covered here) includes predictable ones from predictable organisations, e.g. Homeland Security's Incident Data Mart, which will check for patterns in law enforcement incidents, or the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force Activity, which uses DHS, FBI and "public" data sources with a view to keeping terrorists out of the US. But the Department of Energy also has several 'counterintelligence' systems tracking foreign visitors to, or terrorist/criminal activity at, DOE facilities. And the Department of Education has the slightly worryingly-named OIG - Project Strikeback, comparing its records with those of the FBI with the object of "analyzing intelligence and detecting terrorist activities."

Taken as a whole, the various terror- and crime-related projects add up to something that looks remarkably like Total Information Awareness, the difference here being that there's no longer a single big project for Congress to shoot at, just a large and fast-growing (68 of the 199 are at planning stage) number of data mining operations with little in the way of regulation or oversight. ®

Related links:

GAO report

Akaka press release

'Spot the terrorist' system was pitched to Cheney by Jeb Bush

Congress threatens two hi-tech Gestapo programs


EPIC TIA page