Data Mining

How Do I Get Out of This Relationship?

How Do I Get Out of This Relationship?

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:03am
We have written extensively about online data brokers and their penchant for mining public records and secretly following you around the web in order to create profiles based on personal information they glean. They then share that information with marketers, insurance companies, background check companies, and even law enforcement.
Burying the Needle

Burying the Needle

By Matthew Harwood, Media Strategist, ACLU at 2:54pm

Back in 2007, Reps. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's watchdog over the federal government. As the two top members of the Subcommittee on Investigations and…

Not Just the NSA: Data Brokers Amass Detailed Profiles on Everyone Online

Not Just the NSA: Data Brokers Amass Detailed Profiles on Everyone Online

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 2:11pm

This month, a strongly worded Washington Post op-ed by Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill calling for transparency in the business practices of the online data broker industry provoked a heated response. While the ACLU and other privacy advocates…

The PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 Must be Reformed

The PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 Must be Reformed

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:16pm

The following remarks were given by Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, at Sen. Rand Paul's press conference yesterday announcing his intention to sue the government to stop NSA surveillance of Americans' communications.…

Simple Dataset About American Colonists Shows Power of Metadata

Simple Dataset About American Colonists Shows Power of Metadata

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:16pm

In the best tradition of educators who manage to be both entertaining and enlightening, Duke sociology professor Kieran Healy has posted “Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere”—a fascinating demonstration of just how revealing metadata can be when subject to certain quite simple but powerful number-crunching techniques. Using simple information about 260 colonists in the years before the American Revolution (what organizations they belong to), he shows step by step how the lowest analyst at the “Royal Security Agency” could use that data to build powerful insights into what might be going on among the rebellious colonists.

The scariest thing about this is just how small and simple the starting data set is. Healy concludes:

I must ask you to imagine what might be possible if we were but able to collect information on very many more people, and also synthesize information from different kinds of ties between people! For the simple methods I have described are quite generalizable in these ways, and their capability only becomes more apparent as the size and scope of the information they are given increases. We would not need to know what was being whispered between individuals, only that they were connected in various ways. The analytical engine would do the rest!

In other words, this demonstration has just show us a hint of what an organization like the NSA can probably do with metadata.

More evidence that (as we have argued at greater length elsewhere) those downplaying the intrusiveness of metadata are way behind the times.

For “Civic Hacking Day,” We’re Opening Our Torture Database to Developers

For “Civic Hacking Day,” We’re Opening Our Torture Database to Developers

By Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 10:59am

This Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, mark the first annual National Day of Civic Hacking. The ACLU is participating by enabling developers to access our Torture Database and in turn make this information even more accessible to the public. Starting…

Raytheon’s “Riot” Social-Network Data Mining Software

Raytheon’s “Riot” Social-Network Data Mining Software

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:08pm

A video touting software created by Raytheon to mine data from social networks has been attracting an increasing amount of attention in the past few days, since it was uncovered by Ryan Gallagher at the Guardian.

As best as I can tell from…

TSA Once Again Considering Using Commercial Data To Profile Passengers

TSA Once Again Considering Using Commercial Data To Profile Passengers

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:09am

The TSA has issued a “Market Research Announcement” in which the agency expresses a desire to expand its Pre-Check whitelist program by allowing private companies to carry out risk analysis of Americans that would determine whether they…

Open Source Intelligence and Crime Prevention

Open Source Intelligence and Crime Prevention

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:00pm

Buried on page A25 of Thursday’s New York Times is a tiny story on what’s likely to become a big problem after the recent horrific mass shooting. According to the report, top intelligence officials in the New York City Police Department…

Vast New Spying Program Was Started in Secret on a Bogus Pretext

Vast New Spying Program Was Started in Secret on a Bogus Pretext

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:25am

The Wall Street Journal today published (alternate link) an in-depth review of a new, relatively unknown program run by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Although we have been warning about the dangers of the program for months, and I testified…

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