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Total Information Awareness is a program of the Pentagon believed to be involved in data mining of "private databases" that could include social-media sites like Facebook, Youtube, or blogs such as Daily Kos

The following is from the Risks Newsletter from May 28, 2004:

Date: May 27, 2004 1:10:03 PM EDT
From: Barry Steinhardt <Bsteinhardt@aclu.org>
Subject: New GAO Report on Government Data Mining (via Dave Farber's IP)

A new report on "data mining" , which is being released today by the General Accounting Office, reveals that practice is widespread in the the Federal government and that there are, at least, four programs that may be accessing and analyzing private-sector databases in ways that are reminiscent of the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness Program. The report was prepared at the request of Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

The GAO's investigation uncovered 199 government uses of the statistical analysis techniques known as data mining, 54 of which use private-sector data. Such information could include any data held in corporate or other private hands, including credit-card records and Internet logs.

In an appendix to its report, the investigators listed those programs, providing a brief description of each and indicating its purpose and whether it contained personal information, or made use of private-sector data and data from other government agencies.

The 4 programs of special concern are:

  • Verity K2 Enterprise - Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Mines data "to identify foreign terrorists or U.S. citizens connected to foreign terrorism activities." (Page 30 of GAO report)
  • Analyst Notebook I2 - Department of Homeland Security. "Correlates events and people to specific information." (p. 44)
  • PATHFINDER - DIA. "Can compare and search multiple large databases quickly" and "analyze government and private sector databases." (p. 30)
  • Case Management Data Mart - DHS. "Assists in managing law enforcement cases" Using private-sector data. (p. 44)

According to the GAO descriptions, all four programs draw on private-sector databases, contain personally identifiable information, and appear to constitute dragnets on the general population.

Of course, many of the other programs listed by the GAO raise questions about how they are using information, including private-sector information -- and the GAO's list did not include programs run by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, which did not respond to its requests for information.

The ACLU, together with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Democracy and Technology, today sent a joint letter to Senator Akaka praising his efforts and the report.

The joint letter to Sen. Akaka is online at http://www.aclu.org/Privacy/Privacy.cfm?ID=15858&c=130

The GAO [report] should be on their Web site shortly at http://www.gao.gov/.

Barry Steinhardt, Director Technology and Liberty, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 125 Broad Street, NYC 10004 www.aclu.org

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