Monday, July 16, 2007

FBI data mining hunts more than “terrorists,” dates back to Clinton in one program

The Justice Department revealed the G-men are doing six differentdata mining projects, only one of which has a direct link to terrorism, with only one of the other five having even a remote link, from what I can tell.

Two things to note: First, I don’t believe FBI/DOJ claims about how careful they are of civil liberties. Second, one of the totally unconnected to terrorism data-mining programs, the one on real estate fraud, dates back to the Clinton Administration.

The FBI is using data mining programs to track everyone from potential terrorists to individuals who file fraudulent automobile insurance claims, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report filed with Congress this week.

The DOJ report, which is required under the Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, details six pattern-based data mining initiatives currently under way or planned by the department and its components. …

Among the six FBI pattern-based data mining initiatives listed in the DOJ report are:

-- A soon-to-be-launched program called the System to Assess Risk initiative designed to help FBI analysts focus in on individuals who may merit further scrutiny from a terrorist standpoint. According to the DOJ, the initiative will not "label anyone a terrorist." Rather, it is designed to help the FBI save time by focusing on those who have already been identified as persons of interest.

-- An identity theft intelligence project that examines customer complaints relating to identity theft to look for patterns suggesting major ID theft rings in a given area. The data mining effort has been used to identify trends and generate leads for the FBI since 2003.

-- An initiative dating back to 1999 under which the FBI has been examining public records on real estate transactions to identify potentially fraudulent housing transactions.

Of the three other data mining programs, one is aimed at identifying Internet pharmacy fraud, another at fraud involving automobile insurance and the third at health-care-related fraud.

In all instances, adequate care has been taken to ensure that the right privacy and civil liberties protections are in place, the DOJ statement said.

Sure. Right.

Now, I’m not saying that there is anything necessarily wrong with any of these programs, other than they’ve been operating in semi-darkness for as long as eight years.