Data Mining

Privacy, Computers, and Consequences (Computers vs. Humans Part 2)

Privacy, Computers, and Consequences (Computers vs. Humans Part 2)

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:09pm
In a post yesterday I discussed the belief that as long as our behavior and communications are only scrutinized by a computer, our privacy has not been invaded. Many people have that sense because computers are so much dumber than human beings.
Big Data: Revolution or Overhyped Fad?

Big Data: Revolution or Overhyped Fad?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 8:43am

In a prior post I alluded to the fact that the buzzword “Big Data” is just a new term for “data mining.” The potential for big data analytics to discover new things about us is frightening from a privacy perspective, as I discussed.…

What to Make of the TrapWire Story

What to Make of the TrapWire Story

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 4:34pm

Some of the Wikileaks-fueled swirl of stories about the TrapWire program appear to have been overhyped, as my colleague Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in her excellent roundup of the story yesterday. Others writing about the program…

Big Data: NSA, Facebook—and My University?

Big Data: NSA, Facebook—and My University?

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 12:51pm

On Sunday, the New York Times published an extensive piece surveying the ways American universities are using their access to students’ information to tailor their college experiences. Universities collect a huge amount of data on their students—course…

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…

Weird Computer-Generated Quiz Produces Customer Service Fail

Weird Computer-Generated Quiz Produces Customer Service Fail

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 4:20pm

I lost my credit card yesterday and had a very telling experience on the phone with American Express trying to get it replaced. After I gave them various pieces of information, the customer service agent said they would ship me a new card to the billing…

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.

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…

Data Mining License Plate Records

Data Mining License Plate Records

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

On Friday I posted about an ongoing effort by the DEA to put automatic license plate reading (ALPR) devices on public interstates, where they will sweep up records of Americans’ travel and store it for two years. The agency is now pushing to…

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…

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