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DHS Ends Data-Mining Program 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-i-have-a-bridge-to-sell-you dept.
ExE122 writes "The Department of Homeland Security has "scrapped an ambitious anti-terrorism data-mining tool." The tool, called ADVISE, was being tested with live data rather than test data without having proper security in place. This program had already been under criticism by privacy advocates and members of Congress. However, according to the article, a DHS spokesman assures that the program will be restarted once the security and cost are re-evaluated."
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DHS Ends Data-Mining Program

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  • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:32PM (#20499107)
    In other words, it will be revived when this blows over and people forget about it.
    • by eln (21727) * on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:36PM (#20499143) Homepage
      My guess would be that they're "canceling" it by moving it into black ops. Either that or it didn't work and they don't want to say they're canceling it because it sucked.
      • This program is like the Whack-A-Mole carnival game.

        There it is, WHACK! It's gone. Then its head pops up again, WHACK! Wait, over there, WHACK!

        And, on and on it goes.

        • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
          The only effective solution will be to completely defund whatever department (or entire agency) where it pops up. After half of the government has gone bye-bye, the remaining agencies will be a little leery about accepting the program into their control.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:39PM (#20499179)
      Why would they need a government program when the commercial credit agencies already have years of experience with this. It always gives me a chuckle that these databases when maintained by government give libertarians the cold sweats, but private businesses *built* on making a profit off of mining and selling information about you seem to be a-okay.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:50PM (#20499313) Journal
        I'm no Libertarian, but anyone collecting large amounts of data on my activities makes me nervous. I don't trust credit card companies any more than I trust governments, and I think strict controls must be enforced on how the data is used and who gets to see it, and harmonized methods of correcting bad data. Oh, and massive fines and jail sentences for those discovered misusing the data or inadequately securing it (that means making bureaucrats, politicians and corporate executives directly and completely responsible).
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday September 06, 2007 @05:16PM (#20499593) Homepage Journal

          Oh, and massive fines and jail sentences for those discovered misusing the data or inadequately securing it
          How's that gonna happen when the administration only has to whisper the words "National Security" and every bit of oversight is swept away?

          Ultimately, that's what warrants are for. Not just for lawmen to get permission to snoop, but so that there's a record of it having happened at all.

          Warrantless surveillance doesn't only mean that there's no controls over whether or not we're spied upon, but that we can't even ask the question. Is there any danger that would justify giving a government agency unlimited license to violate civil rights?
      • It always gives me a chuckle that these databases when maintained by government give libertarians the cold sweats, but private businesses *built* on making a profit off of mining and selling information about you seem to be a-okay.

        Point well taken, but have you ever tried filing a class-action lawsuit (or any other kind of lawsuit) against the government? Businesses built on making a profit want to do just that and don't want to be embroiled in legal proceedings that drain both their reputations and, more importantly, their wallets. Plus, if they lose a big one, they have to deal with the government then cracking down on their business practices with new restrictive legislation AFTER they have to pay out all the $$$$ to plaintif

    • by krgallagher (743575) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:41PM (#20499213) Homepage
      "DHS spokesman assures that the program will be restarted once the security and cost are re-evaluated."

      In other words, "How secure are we that we won't get caught, and how much political influence will it cost us if we are."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Exactly! This sort of thing has "Big Brother" written all over it and, while U.S. citizens seem to be willing to trade at least some of their liberties for perceived increases in safety, they're still by-and-large skeptical of this sort of government oversight. However--and this is a big "however"--there are increased signs that government (not necessarily in the form of the Fed, but at state and local levels as well) is working on indoctrinating the next generation of voters into the "Big Brother is good
      • They're still collecting data from all the same data sources, they're just putting the data-mining tool on hold until they either clean up their act or rename the program to be less visible. So there's not much gain for your privacy except that they *might* not spread your data around as much when they restart.

        It would be nice to say that "If we're lucky, it won't start up again until the Bush Administration is out of office", but that's not realistic - the folks who are doing this kind of thing won't stop

    • by TheMeuge (645043)
      <blockquote>...testing with live data...</blockquote>
      Is that anything like pre-SP1 Windows?

      Because to me it sounds like the program was up and RUNNING...
    • by Tackhead (54550)
      > In other words, it will be revived when this blows over and people forget about it.

      s/viv/nam/

      (Fixed it for you.)

      • Yes, they will simply rename the program.
        Then they will hire Raytheon for 6 billion dollars to
        weld new name plates on to the existing equipment.

        The new name will be something catchy like:
        POP (Presidential Ocular Penetration)

        • If I remember correctly there was this plan for a data-mining program called TIA (Total Information Awareness) but DHS promptly canceled the program after public outcry. Hmm, and then they start this program called ADVISE...... Nothing to see here, move along
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Burz (138833)
      Why would they bother when the NSA can do it for them?

      Guess who has been spying as a subcontractor? Verisign! [dailykos.com]

      Welcome to MITM country.

      The CALEA law covers data now, so virtually all of the USA Internet traffic can be effectively bugged, and there are no trustable third parties for SSL links. Where secure encryption is concerned, you are on your own.

      Heh. The head of the IETF [networkworld.com] receives compensation from both Verisign and the NSA.
    • Data Miners (Score:3, Funny)

      by Stanistani (808333)
      I can just visualize the scene, as the tired data miners head for home and a hot meal, pickaxes over their shoulders, all seven in a line singing "Hi Ho, Hi Ho!"

      I hope Snow White cooked them a nice apple pie instead of tasting it herself.
    • by Sfing_ter (99478)
      Not Exactly, if you watch Bourne Ultimatum, you see them using Echelon to find data; that is not DHS doing it, it's the cia, so.... They only move on or let go of technology when they get something better, this is the case and always has been... believe it, they are still listening and watching. BTW what does Dead Hooker Storage need with that data?
    • by SlshSuxs (1089647)
      In other words, we failed to make it work.
    • by coaxial (28297)
      What makes you think that it needs revived? Packup some boxes. Change the name. Hell, even move it to a different department if you want, and you have plausable deniablity for a project's "cancelation."
    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:41PM (#20499207) Journal
      No, this is a new program, which they're closing because of privacy and budget concerns. It was meant to replace the old program which was closed because of privacy and budget concerns. And to be sure, there will be another program which will be closed eventually because of privacy and budget concerns.
      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:50PM (#20499305) Journal

        No, this is a new program, which they're closing because of privacy and budget concerns. It was meant to replace the old program which was closed because of privacy and budget concerns. And to be sure, there will be another program which will be closed eventually because of privacy and budget concerns.
        When they first came here, this was all a free country. Everyone said they were daft to build a data-mining program in a free country, but they built in all the same, just to show us. It sank into the swamp due to privacy & budget concerns. So they built a second one. That sank into the swamp due to privacy & budget concerns. So they built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp due to privacy & budget concerns. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the most oppressive, easily abused, unseen, effective only against its citizens that paid for it data-mining program.
        • by symbolic (11752)
          All the while, I'm sure it provided key figures more than ample opportunity to pad their retirement accounts with income derived from what amounts to a taxpayer-funded, three-ring circus. This isn't the only one, either. There's Halibarnum & Bailey's - they're doing a special showing in Iraq right now.
  • I don't appreciate being denied access automatic checkin machines when I fly.

    I don't why Im no longer allowed to use these machines, but I do appreciate being tipped off that the government is watching me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130)
      I was on the same list. I didn't really think anything about not being able to use the checkin machines until it happened with a second airline. I found out when I asked the ticket agent about it. He made a phone call and said "it's okay now" and gave me my boarding pass with the special "SSSS" marker which means you get extra security screening. As in getting wanded and patted down and having my carry-on searched and rubbed with the cloth swabs that get put in the chemical sniffer. That happened for a
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      You're supporting torrents, that makes you an enemy of the state. Duh.
  • Restarted? (Score:5, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:39PM (#20499181)
    From the summary above:
    "However, according to the article, a DHS spokesman assures that the program will be restarted once the security and cost are re-evaluated."

    From the article:
    "DHS spokesman Russ Knocke told The Associated Press on Wednesday the project was being dropped.
    "ADVISE is not expected to be restarted," Knocke said."

    The next sentance in the article is the problematic one.
    "DHS' Science and Technology directorate "determined that new commercial products now offer similar functionality while costing significantly less to maintain than ADVISE."

    So they're not restarting it, they are dropping it. They are not, however, dropping the functionality. Just moving to another platform.
    • Well, I think hatta says it best:

      No, this is a new program, which they're closing because of privacy and budget concerns. It was meant to replace the old program which was closed because of privacy and budget concerns. And to be sure, there will be another program which will be closed eventually because of privacy and budget concerns.

      What this really does is ensure that every large defense contractor will get a slice of the pie. Rinse, lather and repeat.

      Now, if someone would just quote this post a coupl

    • according to the article, a DHS spokesman assures that the program will be restarted once the security and cost are re-evaluated."


      Translation: "The data mining found more gay Republican senators."
  • scrapped - adj. - Broken up into smaller pieces and leveraged across different layers of the bureaucracy. As in: Building a new prototype from scrapped metal.

    I guarantee there will be barely-to-marginally recognizable chunks of ADVISE in some other, less scrutinized department soon.

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. There is no complete victory over this sort of thing.

    --
    Toro
  • I don't care what data mining tool they use, as long as it actually works. The problem is that they have all this data to mine in the first place.
  • Ambitious ??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    FTA: "ambitious"

    Who fucking wrote this, Fox News?

    How about "illegal"?
  • Name change only (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interiot (50685) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @05:02PM (#20499451) Homepage
    When the Total Information Awareness program [wikipedia.org] (the one with the odd all-seeing-eye logo) was closed down, people were happy... but it came back, and now we're to believe it's permanently killed this time?
  • by Boa Constrictor (810560) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @05:04PM (#20499471)
    The whole method is flawed if you're going to let people become a threat and then try to find them. People aren't --contrary to popular belief-- born with an urge to commit acts of terrorism. The people who do the dirty work are typically the vulnerable, young and easy to incite. These people are in relatively great supply compared to the people organising and radicalising.

    The real problem is the supply of money. Without money no terrorist network can function, training and supplying insurgents of any sort costs a heck of a lot to do. It's not about whichever ideal people think they're striving for, it's political manipulation and money behind it. The US would make more ground investigating the US bank accounts of certain very rich nations who export petrochemicals and use profits to make this whole thing happen. Terrorism isn't a standard response, it's a political attack and must not be treated like petty crime.

    I've not mentioned any brand of terrorism, many fit the bill -- please don't think I'm stereotyping here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
      The US would make more ground investigating the US bank accounts of certain very rich nations who export petrochemicals and use profits to make this whole thing happen.

      What makes you think that this wasn't one of the parameters this thing would look for.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @05:27PM (#20499697) Homepage
      Interestingly, that's one of Ron Suskind's theses in his book One Percent Doctrine [google.com]. Basically, he shows that of all the pointless, paranoid things the Bush administration has done to combat "the war" on terror, using detailed financial records to roll up the nascent terrorist cells has been the only effective strategy. One that was done by using existing personnel and laws.
    • by Anomenat (1152311)
      > The people who do the dirty work are typically the vulnerable, young and easy to incite.

      That's what lots of people used to think. After the (feeble) attempted bombings [bbc.co.uk] in Britain in June this year, it is not clear that this is true.
  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @05:37PM (#20499801)
    They had operatives entering data from dumpster dives and the system got swamped with unprocessed rebate forms.
  • I'm sure the tapes are just getting flown by CIA charter planes to other places that it can happen in secret [wikipedia.org].

    I say that half in jest, but seriously, how would we ever know?

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @05:49PM (#20499935) Homepage Journal
    I think I liked things better when data mining projects had the huevos to use as their logo an ominous Illuminati symbol scanning the globe. [wikipedia.org]

    There's something refreshingly honest about that, like a government putting WAR IS PEACE and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH on its buildings instead of pretending they're not a malevolent autocracy.
  • It's been proven already that their security is anything but security. At least that way it was (presumably) cheaper. It certainly wasn't any less secure.

    There is no negative security.
  • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003@colum[ ].edu ['bia' in gap]> on Thursday September 06, 2007 @06:09PM (#20500147) Homepage Journal
    Okay, firstly, this thing is never going to catch any terrorists. As a technology, it doesn't pass the laugh test. It was a joke when it was called Total Information Awareness, and it's a joke now.

      This is not new, however - the military/intelligence apparatus in the US exists, in large part, to subsidize the development of high tech industry. Every marketing company in the country would *love* to have a tool developed that will aggragate and mine in the kind of data that this system treats. Furthermore, these firms can just trade data with eachother or get it from their clients, they don't need any kind of intrusive surveillance laws to get it.
  • ...the program will be restarted once the security and cost are re-evaluated."

    You will be given a fair trial, followed by your execution.
  • Yeah, it's a terrible thing, violation of civil rights, but, ya know.. what's the hourly rate and skillset for this thing! Is there a soda perk, or, do we all get our complimentary terror fighting machine gun!
  • Maybe we should call it data trawling. Just throw out a big, wide net and see what you catch.
  • by Kaenneth (82978) on Friday September 07, 2007 @12:22AM (#20503531) Homepage Journal
    ...the program will be restarted once the security and cost are re-evaluated."

    this is like saying:

    "You will be given a fair trial, followed by your execution."
  • If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck the chances are pretty good that its a duck. It could be a duck billed pladypus but what are the odds ? That is exactly what data mining is. If the data on which data mining algorithms are being run, is collected by legal means then data mining is a fair. If the data was collected by invasion of privacy in any way even running a sorting algorithm on it is unfair. It is the data collection that is good or evil. Data mining is neither good not evil.

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