A new National Research Council report cautions that government data mining programs cannot effectively identify patterns of terrorist activity. Pattern-based or predictive data mining was singled out as likely to generate huge numbers of useless leads. Because of this, the authors warned, pattern-based data mining should not be used to deny a person rights and liberties. This mirrors past conclusions that CDT and others have drawn about data mining efficacy.
The Committee that drafted the October 7th report, entitled "Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists," recommended that all U.S. data mining programs be re-evaluated according to criteria set forth in the 376-page document. The authors - which included former Secretary of Defense William Perry - made the case that even well-managed data mining efforts are of only limited usefulness and can infringe on Americans' privacy.
The Committee recommended that new data mining programs that use sensitive personal information, or personally identifiable information obtained from a third party such as a data broker, should require authorization from a court or other entity designated by Congress. This recommendation is particularly striking because this would be a new role for courts, and because the Department of Homeland Security, which runs a number of such data mining programs, co-sponsored the effort to write the report.
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