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The Searchable Life 413

oni writes "Here's a story on wired about a Pentagon project called LifeLog. It seeks to record every bit of information that can be had, index it by name, or SSN, or even location, and make the database searchable. Furthermore, '[LifeLog adds] physical information (like how we feel) and media data (like what we read) to this transactional data.'" If you think you can build such a system, apply for a grant. There's also a current AP story about Total Information Awareness.
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The Searchable Life

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  • Time for guilting. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by juuri ( 7678 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:19PM (#5999987) Homepage
    These systems can only be built and utilized if people are willing to do the work. A basic fact, but one that seems to get pushed asside when the masses of the informed call for ending stupid legislation and projects that whittle our rights away. Someone still has to build this shit.

    We need a viable platform for getting in contact with the people that work on this swill at a personal level and ask them the important questions. While it may be easy to work on such a project away from everyone, when presented with the dangers and evils on a personal level most people act very differently. Everyone has to work, many people have famlies to feed, but still deep inside most people will no do something incredibly stupid or evil when given the choice... and that applies to work such as this.

    I'm sure someone will say that you can always find someone to work on something no matter how wrong it may be and while that is certainly true, projects such as these are doomed to fail if they can only get subpar workers to create them.

    Congress may make laws and the courts might validate them to a certain extent, but final validation lies in what we are willing to tolerate. We are in control.
  • by Bendebecker ( 633126 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:21PM (#6000006) Journal
    The government is still trying to live our lives for us and protect us from ourselves...
  • Re:Why is it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:22PM (#6000016) Homepage Journal
    everybody thinks this must be evil?
    Checks and balances is the key.

    The very same thing could of been said about the internet.

  • by archeopterix ( 594938 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:24PM (#6000034) Journal
    I am pessimistic about this. Low morals do not have to imply low technical skills.

    Smart people also build self-delusions like "Well, if not me, somebody else would do that." or "There are still folks who do worse things." or "Feeding my family is moral, therefore what I do is OK".

    Need I say that I wish I were wrong?

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:25PM (#6000051) Homepage Journal
    perhaps they believe in it?
    or pehaps you have no concept of balance, and can not see in grays.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:27PM (#6000072)
    Why bother, some guy named Winston will just along behind me and change my past...

  • Re:Why is it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Glock27 ( 446276 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:31PM (#6000112)
    its only completly evil if you have something to hide.

    I have my privacy to "hide". Reveal every detail of your life if you choose - but respect my freedom to do otherwise. The U.S. is a free country, right?

    Or did the terrorists win?

  • Mao, Stalin or Hitler would weep with joy at the thought of such complete and total control over the individual. And make no mistake about it, in order to have complete control over each and every one of us it is necessary to have knowledge. Knowledge really is power and total knowledge of every aspect of your life is an important step in the governments ability to completely control you. Those civil liberties or those freedoms you thought belonged to you will eventually be crushed under the weight of the governments need to know. The Patriot Act, Total Information Awareness, Lifelog- welcome to your 1984/Brave New World.
  • new? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mgs1000 ( 583340 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:32PM (#6000117) Journal
    Haven't Experian and all those other credit report asswipes been doing this for years?
  • Re:Why is it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johnstein ( 602156 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:33PM (#6000125) Journal
    Initially this is true, of course. And in a perfect world, this will ALWAYS be true. In a perfect world, open source lives would be ideal, since no one would exploit others. No one would be a lazy burden to the rest by not doing his/her fair share.

    We don't anywhere near perfect (to quote one of those stupid car commercials), so just because you have nothing to hide, it does not mean that you cannot be exploited. Sure, the chances are slim, but there is that chance. And, if something has any chance to happen, it will happen eventually.

    Now, I am not saying this is or isn't evil... I am just saying that claiming that the reason people are against somethning is because they have something to hide really isn't a very solid arguement.

  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:34PM (#6000132)
    to describe how EVIL these people are.
    They make SATAN look like Mr. Rogers.

    I hope that someone puts not only a stop to this now, but puts an end to this reign of digital terror.

    This can not be allowed to continue.
    George Orwell was pretty much right, but he underestimated the depths that this would sink to.

    I am currently researching the state of affairs in other countries because I just can not live in a country where you are a piece of meat.

    You are born to be a good little consumer. You may not question the party line. You slave away to generate revenue for the state so that the state can grow more powerful. ALL of your income goes towards purchasing disposable crap and taxes.

    You are not allowed to own anything that will last long enough to pass on to your kids. And when you die, the state takes most of your income in inheritence taxes.

    Can you say "coppertop" ????

  • by X_Bones ( 93097 ) <> on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:36PM (#6000143) Homepage Journal
    "The technology could allow the military to develop computerized assistants for war fighters and commanders that can be more effective because they can easily access the user's past experiences," DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker speculated in an e-mail.
    It also could allow the military to develop more efficient computerized training systems, she said: Computers could remember how each student learns and interacts with the training system, then tailor the lessons accordingly.

    Fine. So limit its scope to include only those enlisted in the military. I see no reason whatsoever for anyone at all, much less the Pentagon, to have a record of everything I've ever bought or everyone I've ever emailed or called on a phone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:36PM (#6000146)
    But I have a sudden urge to go reread Zelazny's "Home is the Hangman"...
  • Re:Why is it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by malia8888 ( 646496 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:36PM (#6000149)
    In "1984" we had "Big Brother". My big brother pretty well found my behavior too low in his lofty opinion to be observed or commented upon.

    "Total Information Awareness" or the anacronym "TIA" is coincidentally or purposefully the Spanish word for aunt. "Tia" looks more like a meddling spinster aunt with nothing better to do than peruse our collective sock drawers.

    This is another way the American people have been victimized by 9-11. It gives an opportunity for the people who would like to strip us of our individual freedoms a stronger foothold using our own FEAR as the briquets.

    This evil proposal will make U.S. citizens lives no longer private. Further, has anyone thought about how much "feeding" this informational behemoth will cost our already burdened people?

  • by Walter Wart ( 181556 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:38PM (#6000158) Homepage
    Demographers can already do amazing things with small amounts of data. I once talked with one who was able to tell me a lot about my hobbies, my political beliefs, religion and personal life based on three or four simple questions about alcohol, music, and color preferences.

    Intelligence analysis (the military sort) is based on getting all sorts of data down to the pictures in a wallet and making connections.

    What they are doing here is automating the process and feeding it all the data about everyone. There has been some talk here about the enormous amounts of processing power, the huge databases and whatnot making it impossible. I'm not so confident. The data don't have to all be available at once. Just as long as they can be accessed and processed eventually.

    When they are combined and the patterns teased out (which the above-mentioned disciplines already do very well) you can get a pretty accurate picture of the person. And know what sort of things that person likes or dislikes. Whom they are likely to associate with. Political leanings. Mental stability. And so on.

    Not only privacy but free will are at risk. The propaganda or the interrogation techniques or so on can be individually and automatically tailored to you personally. In advance. And they will almost certainly work.

    You can even tell a lot by lack of data. There will be patterns that people who tend not to show up much in the databases will fall into. What things they are hiding. Transactions that they are trying to hide. Likely associates. With so many data the lack of information is itself information. Sort of like the soldier whose military records consist of a rank, an entrance date, and a discharge date. You KNOW he was doing special operations and was probably on loan to Three Letter Agencies.
  • What if... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by halepark ( 578694 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:39PM (#6000167)
    ...I don't WANT to remember that crazy bitch I went out with 2 years ago?!?
  • by Shackleford ( 623553 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:41PM (#6000187) Journal
    What can I say? After reading the articles on LifeLog and the one on Total Information Awareness (TIA) I'd have to say that I am in disbelief. How the former of these two ideas got as far as it did, even though it doesn't seem to be far it all is hard to believe. TIA has already been heavily criticized and a quote from the article said that LifeLog may be "TIA cubed." Well what I say to that is:

    TIA^3 = (1984)^2

    Yes, indeed. The society depicted Orwell's "1984" didn't even go this far. They didn't try to track this much information about people, IIRC. This idea, however, still has a long way to go before it is materialized. And even though DARPA seems to be giving it a push, I don't expect it to take off. Why? Let me explain.

    TIA, which apparently keeps track of much less information has come under much criticism from those who are familiar with it. In fact, I understand that they decided to change to the TIA logo because it had an eye on it, implying that Big Brother was watching. People will become aware of this and not allow LifeLog to do the Orwellian things that TIA is supposed to do. It may not have many applications beyond military training systems (which was suggested in the article.) And TIA, and its petabytes of information on U.S. citizens it's supposed to store, was barred against use against U.S. citizens in February. Still, we need to watch for whatever Orwellian ideas gain popularity with those in power.

  • Re:1984 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Angry White Guy ( 521337 ) <CaptainBurly[AT]> on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:41PM (#6000189)
    Ask Danny Glover [] about that one.

    It's here already, just not where you think it is.
  • Re:Why is it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <> on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:41PM (#6000191) Homepage

    Checks and balances is the key.

    I'm not American, but I believe this mantra means that at long as there's adequate supervision, extra government powers aren't so bad, right?

    Supervision, "checks and balances" means that you, or your representatives should be able to say when a government organization is trying to grab powers that it doesn't need to do its job, that are totally gratuitious - and also possibly open to abuse.

    Well, this is the fucking Pentagon (your department of war on other countries) that wants to have a complete database of every tiny little thing about American citizens. Which is so totally unrelated to their job, and so open to abuse, that it's precisely those checks and balances that should stop this, if they are still effective, right?

  • Re:Why is it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b-baggins ( 610215 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:46PM (#6000230) Journal
    The information they will gather is stuff that is already publicly available. You don't have privacy, you have anonymity, and you have a right against unwarranted searches and seizure of your person and property. That's it.
  • Re:Why is it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:48PM (#6000254)
    The checks and balances, if working, would guarantee that this would not happen. Certainly since 9/11, and possibly before, the checks and balances have been absent.
  • by saintjab ( 668572 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @02:59PM (#6000331) Homepage Journal
    This is absolutely startling! Why would such a project even exist? This is simply a tool for spying on society. There would only be limited benefit (real world benefits) to a database like this; and it would only benefit the most corrupt segment of our society; the government. Judging by how the government has leveraged this sort of data in the past I would say this is moreover a tool to help incarcerate more people for ever smaller infractions. There would be no anonymity from your own government and that is not healthy to any segment of society. I would gladly waive my American citizenship if it came with the caveat that my entire life would be documented. I enjoy being and American for its freedoms. This stomps on that freedom from every angle!
  • by Gannoc ( 210256 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @03:06PM (#6000391)
    Until people get used to it, and then they make it so in order to apply for any job, you are required to sign a release form waiving your right to privacy, similar to the way companies can require drug testing today.

    I can hear the speeches now, "If the government is aware of a risk in a potential employee, perhaps one that could present a dangerous situation to the other workers in the company, how can we not allow employers to ensure the safety of their employees by conducting a background test?"

    Next thing you know, everyone gets an email telling them about the new condition in their work contract, and your boss is asking you into his office wondering why you recently bought a copy of "Resume Writing for Dummies."

    And don't worry kids, it will remain confidental, just like the results of your drug test are confidental today.
  • by dogfart ( 601976 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @03:09PM (#6000418) Homepage Journal
    Instead of the Pentagon having all the information on citizens' secrets, why not let citizens have access to all the Pentagon's secrets?

    Instead of me having to justify my life to the military, let the military justify everything it does to me (and all other US citizens).

    Information is power. When the government has all information about its citizens, we have tyranny. When citizens have all information about the government, we have democracy.

    What, you say? Then citizens will have access government secrets, and could harm our military defense by handing them over to our enemies. Well, I don't suppose the government (or some government official) would EVER hand over details of our life to people who want to harm us?

    or, you might say ordinary citizens just aren't qualified to make decisions about national defense. These matters should be decided in secret, by qualified experts. Well, who has decided the Pentagon is qualified to judge my life? What gives the government the expertise to make decisions based on a database of individual's actions? After all this must be their intents for this information, they wouldn't just hoard it for the sake of having it?

  • Re:Why is it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @03:10PM (#6000427) Homepage Journal
    So when they fuck up and mis-identify me as a terrorist and declare me an enemy combatant because I used to post to UseNet about drug use, never mind that I haven't touched the stuff in years, and take away my rights to challenge them in court, how exactly am I going to get any kind of "check" or "balance"?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @03:25PM (#6000574)
    I laughed five years ago when tinfoil sites babbled about this happening "soon". Mmmhhh...

    OK, I understand it like this: Governments need to know every detail about their populations in order to secure them, to keep them safe. You see an unemployed anarchist buying an explosives manual? Nab him. You see some student dropping out due to failing to pay tuition, starts buying steel pipe? Get him. Some laid-off workers from some failed company (that cheated them from their stocks and savings while cozily parachuting the top brass) start stirring up some messy marches and picketing, start asking some uncomfortable questions? Book'em.
    It's easier to get all them than attacking the sources of those problems.
  • Re:Why is it (Score:3, Insightful)

    we should all live open sourced lives.

    OK, so reply to this posting with your home address, telephone number (cell included, and work number and extension just for fun), and also include your Date of Birth and Social Security number. Oh, and if you're old enough to have a credit card, we'd like to have those numbers too.

  • by Dr Reducto ( 665121 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @03:55PM (#6000968) Journal
    Most Congresspeople are not good or evil, they just do not have a keen grasp on technology and privacy. When a congressman came to my school, he said that if he recieved a few handwritten letters with a strong opinion on a particular topic, he would look into the bill more seriously. Honestly, most congressmen don't know about stuff, so they vote with the current. If you educate them, this kind of thing would happen less often.
  • by egburr ( 141740 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @03:56PM (#6000982) Homepage
    • everyone who has data about them in the system also has unrestricted access to the system, and
    • all data in the system is available to any user, and
    • I can obtain, at will, a list of recent inquiries (and who performed them) about me and my data, and
    • there is a working method to get data corrected in a timely manner, or ar least to mark data that is in dispute,
    then and only then do I have no problem with this.
  • Re:Why is it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @04:02PM (#6001052) Homepage
    You don't have privacy, you have anonymity

    And the Supreme Court has said, time and time again, that a right to privacy is inherent to the Constitution, without which other rights couldn't be fully exercised.

    I'll take the word of the Supreme Court over yours any day of the week.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @04:09PM (#6001115)
    If the government is going to have increased information about our legal or illegal activities I would like to have expanded and protected constitutional rights. Why can't cops apply miranda properly? They only do it about a thousand times a year. Why can't search warrant criteria be more clear? Why are non-voting entities (corporations) making the rules on how I consume entertainment?

    If the government wants information on me I want the file of personal details for everyone with access to my information. Shouldn't the caretaker of a system like that be subject to atleast as much scrutiny as the average American who is the target of this system?

    Lastly why the hell would this be a military project? I thought that domestic surveillance was the FBI's thing. Isn't it the CIA for foreign and FBI for domestic? Oh yea.... this kind of thing would break a million laws in the US that the FBI has to follow... better make it pentagon where there is no accountability.

    If this passes the NRA nuts that pushed hard for 2nd amendment rights are going to be the folk heros of the future. Calling all patriots, the tree of liberty may need some feeding.
  • Re:Why is it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxwells_deamon ( 221474 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @04:50PM (#6001567) Homepage
    Richard Nixon only made his tapes for historical purposes. So that he could have acurate notes when his autobiography was written.

    "No President since Nixon has been dumb enough to tape record things in the office"

    If the most powerfull person in the US can not keep recordings from biting his rear, what chance do we have?
  • News Flash (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @04:57PM (#6001624)
    Today Millions of Slashdot Readers Cried Their Outrage at Yet Another Step Toward 1984, and Promptly did Nothing About It.

    Please folks, spare us the histrionics. This stuff is happening because you refuse to do anything real about it. You refuse to go on strike, go to protests, contribute to the EFF or other civil liberties organizations, write letters, vote with your wallets, or even vote. As a wise man once said, "It's put up or shut up time."

    The truth is, it's not just soldiers who defend freedom, but each and every one of us every day. If you want to be free, you have to stand up and fight for it.
  • by Cyno ( 85911 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @05:28PM (#6001864) Journal
    Want to know the real reason they're collecting all this information?

    They want to make us better consumers. :)
  • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @05:29PM (#6001876)
    So DARPA specifically denies your assertion.

    Point 1: Well, duh! How would such a system work without building a dossier on every American? Answer: it wouldn't. If the terrorists were, say, in the US and taking flying lessions then any system that didn't record Americans would be useless.

    Point 2: Well, DUUUUH! Of course they would say its not for that because they wouldn't get the funding. The fact that they put it in as a "FAQ" shows that they're worried about it an/or having it thrown at them as an objection.

    But lacking proof, you might as well joing the Area 51/cattle mutilation crowd.

    Which would put us in the same crowd as the Pentagon officials that said there were WMD in Iraq. After all, Saddam denied it and the Govt. hasn't found any proof so it must be a big conspiracy theory (ignoring the fact that Rumsfeld sold him the weapons, which he doesn't like to talk about anymore).

    Does someone help you get dressed or are you typing in the nude?


  • Re:Why is it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbogosian ( 537034 ) <> on Tuesday May 20, 2003 @06:47PM (#6002472) Homepage
    Checks and balances is the key.

    It seems that with today's advances in technology, the only way we can account for the loss of privacy in a Free society is to grant access to projects like this and TIA to everyone.

    That's right, everyone. If the government can look at my entire purchase history, I should be able to look at the purchase histories of everyone employed by the government.

    The only way all this crap will work acceptably is if I can spy on my government just as effectively as it can spy on me.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky