Big Brother or Synthetic Data?

Data Mining Humming Along at DHS
Washington Technology (12/03/07) Lipowicz, Alice

The Department of Homeland Security’s Amy Kudwa recently confirmed that although the DHS terminated a controversial visual analytics data mining program this summer, the department continues to explore visual analytics research through a different program.

The visual analytics research at the Science and Technology Directorate is working to identify terrorists by using data collected from video surveillance footage, cell phone calls, photos, bank records, chat rooms, and emails. Kudwa says that no real-world, operational data is being used in the research.

“It relies on synthetic data,” Kudwa says. “It is purely research on ways to interact with data.” Kudwa says because the research does not use actual data it is not considered data mining, though it could potentially be used to identify and stop terrorists, according to a DHS newsletter. “Today, researchers at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate are creating ways to see fuzzy data as a three-dimensional picture where threat clues can jump out,” the newsletter says. “Mathematicians, logicians, and linguists make the collective universe of data assume a meaningful shape.”

The newsletter also says the program could possibly even be used to predict behavior. Although Kudwa says the research has been ongoing since 2004, an August 2006 survey by the DHS Inspector General did not list it as one of the department’s 12 data-mining programs.


It’s really hard to know what to believe anymore, isn’t it?