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Data Sharing, Government Style 96

Posted by timothy
from the popular-and-fun-just-like-ada dept.
rowama writes "The Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department have been collaborating to develop an XML-based model for data sharing. After less than a year since the initial release, in October 2005, the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) 1.0 Beta is out. It's big, really big. There are no less than 9 namespaces and plans for future expansion. Contact your local government contractor, with resume in hand, and you may be one of the lucky developers to implement NIEM-capable software."
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Data Sharing, Government Style

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:34PM (#15733935) Journal

    Meanwhile grandma is still taking off her shoes and getting wanded at the airport. Nice to know yet another debacle is launched. Here's hoping they're as successful as they have been with the new Air Traffic Control System.

  • Obvious bloat. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:49PM (#15734050) Journal
    Just glancing at it, I can see problems. XML is too often used for databases when it shouldn't be, but there are similarities, and just looking at it I can see that it violates one of the most basic database design principles: normalization [wikipedia.org]

    Just as an example, there are three different namespaces dedicated to the various FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards)...To three different STANDARDS.

    I'm no expert on government info, and I just looked at this thing for the first time, so maybe it's brilliant and I'm ust not seeing it, but it sure looks a lot like they've fallen victim to a database noob mistake, and created a monster tree with disproportionate crazy branches everywhere, and that is bound to cause relational problems, redundant data, and warped design challenges.
  • Re:Obvious bloat. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by punkinabox (922181) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:01PM (#15734122)
    Well, they said data sharing, not data storage.
  • Re:Obvious bloat. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:04PM (#15734137) Homepage Journal
    Exactly. We're talking about data interchange between systems, not single system efficiency.
  • War of the Worlds (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Grey (463613) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:29PM (#15734258)
    XML is, in part, supposed to make it easier to manipulate data by providing unambiguous definitions. It clarifies the data. So we throw the U.S. Government into the mix and wind up definitions like the following (pulled at random from the 'Definition' column within the niem-1.0beta.xls spreadsheet buried in the download):
    Authorized dissemination control portion mark abbreviation(s). Either (a) a single abbreviation or (b) a space-delimited list of abbreviations in the order shown in the CAPCO Register. Exception: For the REL abbreviation, omit the country code trigraph(s) and instead place the trigraph(s) in the releasableTo attribute value.
    WTF? This is perhaps a use of the word "Definition" that I am not acquainted with. It reminds me strongly of trying to decode the income tax rules while filling out those yearly forms. Possibly, those that actually understand the above will believe it to be a brilliant explanation. I guess I won't be one of those "lucky" contractors looking to implement NIEM-compliant software. Unless it's a "spook->human" translator.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:32PM (#15734275)
    Meanwhile grandma is still taking off her shoes and getting wanded at the airport.

    The knowledge that she will get the same treatment as the rest of us is the one thing keeping grandma from demanding body cavity searches for the rest of us.

    I, for one, am glad that we don't live in a world where grandma gets waved through security with a smug little smile on her face while I get directed to the body cavity search room to take it in the rear to appease grandma's paranoid fears of "all those terrorists".

  • by kneecapd (735579) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:44PM (#15734878)

    I skimmed through the 58 page spec document which was mostly filled with describing the vast levels of bureaucracy that they're putting place to manage this beast. I also did a simple word find on the word "security". I only found 3 instances of the word that weren't coupled with the word "homeland" as in the Department of. No instances of the word "authentication".

    I know this is doc isn't intended to show the exact structure of the messages to be passed, but gee whiz, wouldn't you think they would address the topic of "how do we make sure that only members with access to the NIEM can retrieve/exchange this data."????

    All I found was a quick reference to one of the committees that they're going to form - who has the responsibility of (paraphrasing) "helping member organizations handle data security".

    That's kinda scary. Or does this thing just run on the super-duper-secret world-wide government inter-network? I mean, they never have any problems with data security on that thing. (see: Los Alamos Lab, Dept. of Veteran Affairs, etc.)

  • Re:Bonus advantage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Soong (7225) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:57PM (#15735121) Homepage Journal
    under which namespace will I find the <pork/> tag?

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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