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Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

New US Government Project To Monitor Electronic Communication 164

An anonymous reader writes "PRODIGAL (Proactive Discovery of Insider Threats Using Graph Analysis and Learning) is a recently uncovered U.S. government program created in partnership with the Georgia Tech School of Computational Science and Engineering, ostensibly to monitor IMs, texts, and emails on government networks, is feared to be turned on the U.S. population at large. From the article: 'Cherie Anderson runs a travel company in southern California, and she's convinced the federal government is reading her emails. But she's all right with that. "I assume it's part of the Patriot Act and I really don't mind," she says. "I figure I'm probably boring them to death."'"
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New US Government Project To Monitor Electronic Communication

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  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:03PM (#38266670) Homepage

    I interviewed for a major life insurance company. They already have the ability to monitor all that stuff (except for texts, but that seems trivial if you have access). I know for a fact a previous employer of mine had that capability and used it as well.

    The only interesting thing about this is they asked Georgia Tech to help instead of a more traditional defense-type contractor.

  • Not News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Prodigal86sc ( 912039 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:06PM (#38266722)
    The NSA has been doing this since 2003, probably before. It's extra creepy that DARPA is now in on the act, but that's about it. []
  • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:19PM (#38266890)
    I know we're supposed to look down on Reddit as Slashdot-lite, but someone posted an interesting question [] there yesterday:

    The ghost of Plato offers you one of two pills. If you take the blue pill, from now on your government will precisely represent the will of its people. If you take the red pill, your country will be seized by an intelligent dictator whose political views are identical to yours. Which will it be?

    It's almost a difficult choice until you read things like "I assume it's part of the Patriot Act and I really don't mind", and then you realize you'd grab the red pill so fast you'd yank Plato's arm off. Participatory government is dead.

  • Re:Encrypt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:19PM (#38266892) Journal

    Encryption may not help you here. When we get to talking about graph analysis and learning, suddenly who you are talking to becomes as interesting as what you are talking about.

    You might be identified as threat based sole on what would seem to be unusual information flows. For example, if someone in say HR is trading lots of mails with someone in accounting, an other person in inventory management, and finally a couple of warehouse shipping clerks, such a system might flag it as a possible theft conspiracy to steal inventory.

    It would be unusual for such a ad-hoc group to be exchanging information at high frequency, and might warrant scrutiny. You can discover that and flag it independent of the the messages being encrypted or not. It could be completely innocent of course, they might just be on the company volleyball team together. Still its an interesting technology.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:45PM (#38267226) Homepage

    Actually, no, that's art imitating life.

    In 2003, a program called "Total Information Awareness" was created to intercept all Internet traffic and try to process it looking for phrases the NSA and others in government might find interesting. In 2007, the newly elected Congress defunded it (mostly Democrats, with the support of a few libertarians like Ron Paul). The NSA responded by shifting the efforts into different programs that they didn't have to explain to Congress.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @01:13PM (#38267704) Homepage

    Everybody would like a dictator that rules "their way" because everyone else is stupid and wrong, in fact it's a thinly veiled way of asking if you'd like to become that dictator yourself. Except that's not how it works, because everyone can take the blue pill and have their fair share of democracy but only one person gets to pick the red pill. So the question is, would you really take a lottery where one person gets to appoint a dictator for life? I mean you could get lucky, but you might also want a one-way plane ticket out of there before your new randomly-chosen overlord closes the border. Weird as it sounds, the politicians you have are actually moderates compared to what you could get.

    Besides, if you want that dictatorship to not get overthrown in the first five minutes, that dictator has to cease control and keep it - people don't obey by magic. You might find that even if you are doing the "right thing" and have the people's best interest at heart, what you have to do to force it upon them actually makes the cure worse than the problem. It won't be long before your dictator passes mass surveillance laws of his own - for the people's own good, of course. Nothing like a government that's decided they're right and the people wrong, surely some reeducation camps will make people understand. That's worked so well in the past.

  • Re:Encrypt (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:25PM (#38269776)

    > PGP is stupid. It's non-standard

    It's not only a de-facto standard, it's *officially* a standard, described in RFC-1991 and 2440. It's also supposed in most email clients, either natively (such as Evolution) or with a trivial add-on (like Enigmail for Thunderbird).

  • Re:Encrypt (Score:2, Interesting)

    by glorybe ( 946151 ) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:39PM (#38271268)
    For reasons not known or understood by me I am unfortunately aware that some arm of government does, and has for some time, collected in depth information about some people who have no criminal history at all nor have done anything considered wrong either. It gets rough when someone hands you some of that information and because of the life spans of people who apparently contributed that information it is obvious that it was compiled over a period of years and some effort was applied to knowing about your life.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak