Datamining program violated privacy laws

ADVISE program used citizen's actual data rather than fake data in testing cutting-edge datamining capabilities.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on
The Department of Homeland Security has violated privacy laws in the testing of an aggressive data-mining program, a forthcoming Government Accountability Office reports says.

The Washington Post reports that the GAO found that DHS researchers used citizens' real information instead of fake data in testing the ADVISE program. ADVISE stands for Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement.

The program is on the cutting edge of analytical technology that applies mathematical algorithms to uncover hidden relationships in data. The idea is to troll a vast sea of information, including audio and visual, and extract suspicious people, places and other elements based on their links and behavioral patterns.

The violation in ADVISE is just one of three by separate programs, in which DHS used citizens' private information without proper notification for a purpose different than originally envisioned, a GAO source told the Post.

Pattern-based data-mining, as opposed to link-based, is seen as still very experimental, while privacy advocates say it is inherently violative of civil rights.

"They will turn up hundreds of soccer teams, family reunions and civil war re-enactors whose patterns of behavior happen to be the same as the terrorist network," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced bipartisan legislation to require the White House to report more fully to Congress on datamining programs.

Editorial standards