Whoops. False Positive. Sorry ‘Bout That … Heh Heh.
It figures. Not only are the predictive data mining and behavioral surveillance efforts through which the government hopes to identify terrorists a threat to privacy, they don’t really work, either.
In a 352-page report published last week, the National Research Council said data mining and behavior detection aren’t nearly as useful as their proponents claim. In fact, they’re of dubious scientific merit and have “enormous potential” for infringing on law-abiding Americans’ privacy. “Automated identification of terrorists through data mining (or any other known methodology) is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts,” the Council found. “Even in well-managed programs, such tools are likely to return significant rates of false positives, especially if the tools are highly automated.”
While not an explicit condemnation of the techniques at issue here, the report does recommend that the government evaluate the effectiveness and lawfulness of these data mining and behavior-detection programs it’s so keen on before implementing them, and periodically thereafter. Said the Council, “History demonstrates that measures taken in the name of improving national security, especially in response to new threats or crises, have often proven to be both ineffective and offensive to the nation’s values and traditions of liberty and justice.”