A number of folks think that the current Federal Administration’s aversion to legitimatizing its eavesdropping with warrants is that it is not doing targeted eavesdropping, but that it is “data mining.”
This post gives an extremely clear description of data mining:
Most Americans don’t understand what is meant by “data mining,” a digital “fishing expedition.” To clarify what’s happening, I’ve created a hypothetical scenario: Suppose that my daughter is in India visiting her in laws. I call her to wish her a happy birthday. Instead of dialing the country code for India, 91, I dial the country code for Pakistan, 92; and instead of dialing the city code for Bombay, 22, I dial the city code for Karachi, 21. I make a transposition error. As a result, instead of getting my daughter’s extended family, I reach the office of the “Jihad R Us” madrasah. When I am greeted in Urdu, I realize my mistake and hang up. Meanwhile, the National Security Agency computers monitoring international calls note that I have contacted “an organization that is affiliated with al-Qaida.”
In addition to phone traffic, the NSA computers have access to all my personal and financial data. Alerted by my call, their software scans my digital records and finds that I recently made a contribution, by means of my Visa card, to an organization in Pakistan – they don’t care that it was for humanitarian assistance to earthquake refugees. At this point, the NSA computers flag me as a “possible terrorist sympathizer;” their software decision logic, their algorithm looks at my data and computes my “threat score” – much like the FICO score assigned to determine credit worthiness. Because I have a threat score above a certain threshold, the NSA software makes an algorithmic decision to monitor my phone calls, read my email, and check my financial transactions. The NSA computer system goes “fishing” in my personal data. This is “data mining;” looking for patterns in massive amounts of data. In this case the NSA software is looking for actions – phone calls, money transfers – that indicate an al-Qaida supporter.
In other words, they are looking for anything.
And they haven’t found it.
As we say in the computer biz, it’s led to a flood of data, but no infomation. But it gives the current Federal Administration the masturbatory idea that it’s doing something useful.
Face it, these are folks who don’t read.
They sacrifice our privacy to their incompetence.
And the sad truth is that, when they take our privacy, it does not reduce their incompetence.