KDnuggets : News : 2007 : n02 : item35 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >


Federal data-mining programs under fire

January 11, 2007, By Rebecca Carr, Cox News Service

WASHINGTON Congress should approve more safeguards to prevent personal information from being scooped up into government data mining programs, a panel of privacy experts said Wednesday.

The panel told the Senate Judiciary Committee that congressional oversight is needed to ensure that the federal government's roughly 200 data mining programs are not trampling on individual privacy rights.

"Data mining is completely out of control," said former Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances. "Americans have no idea what is going on with these programs."


"There seems to be this magical belief that by gathering all the data, the names of terrorists will rise to the surface and make everyone's job easier," said German, who now works on legal policy at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Federal agencies are "bewitched" by the possibility of data mining programs, testified Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a constitutional liberties organization based in Washington.

"The government is accessing entire buckets of data without a warrant," Harris said.

The advancement of data mining technology has outpaced federal laws designed to protect the public against privacy invasions, Harris said, adding that more oversight is needed to protect the public.

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Washington Post reports: "Daylight Sought For Data Mining"
Senators Want Federal Use Disclosed

Key senators introduced legislation yesterday that would require the government to disclose data-mining programs to Congress in an effort to protect Americans' privacy and prevent misuse of personal information.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) requires federal agencies to report the development and use of data-analysis technologies to "discover predictive or anomalous patterns indicating criminal or terrorist activity."


Predictive data-mining is becoming more popular, although Cato Institute director of information policy studies Jim Harper says the technique is not effective in finding terrorists, since there are not enough established "terrorist patterns" to build a model around.

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