Six Lines

Connecting the Dots

Posted by Aaron Massey on 13 May 2011.

The U.S. government continues to develop data mining tools to identify terrorists:

Federal intelligence agencies are developing new software that can analyze the communications networks and travel activities of terrorists to help discover relationships between them.

The software being developed by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), called DataSphere, is just one of several projects intelligence agencies developed in 2010 to aid in retrieval and analysis of intelligence information, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI’s) 2010 Data Mining Report.

The subtitle of that article is “Report details data analysis software developed by intelligence agencies to connect the dots between suspected terrorists,” so it fits pretty well with this article from Bruce Schneier in 2006:

In the post 9/11 world, there’s much focus on connecting the dots. Many believe that data mining is the crystal ball that will enable us to uncover future terrorist plots. But even in the most wildly optimistic projections, data mining isn’t tenable for that purpose. We’re not trading privacy for security; we’re giving up privacy and getting no security in return.

Read the whole article. Schneier has written about this subject for years, and this is a great example of his argument. Data mining is a useful technology for some problems, but terrorism just isn’t one of them.