Drilling Down Into Data Mining
As government agencies attempt to increase their authority to collect, analyze and share information, privacy rights defenders are calling on Congress to regulate data mining.Data miningits reliability, usefulness and threat to privacywill be a recurring theme in Congress this year as government agencies attempt to increase their authority to collect, analyze and share information. Privacy rights defenders, worried about the governments habit of dipping into the private sectors wealth of stored data, are calling on Congress to regulate the increasingly popular technology. Lawmakers charged with overseeing information policy are examining how government agencies and private enterprises sift through vast amounts of information, extract specific data and identify patterns. While businesses have long used the technology as a marketing tool and a means of estimating spending and revenue, there is a growing interest within government to use data mining in national security initiatives. At a hearing this week of the House panel that oversees technology and information policy, lawmakers heard the concerns of the privacy rights community, which is pressing the government to design data searches that trace information but leave it anonymous unless special permission is granted to link it to an individual.
Jeffrey Rosen, associate professor at George Washington University Law School in Washington and an editor at The New Republic, called on the lawmakers to establish oversight authority over data mining. "Law enforcement has a long history of piggy backing on grand data warehouses [like TRW]," he said, suggesting that Congress should create a special oversight court to decide when the government would be allowed to link identifying data found during a mass search to transactional data thought to be evidence of a terrorism plan.