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Government Adds Consumer Databases To Mining Queries 179

mrraven writes "According to an article in the Washington Post the government is increasingly using consumer databases for surveillance purposes. " From the article: "It is difficult to pinpoint the number of such contracts because many of them are classified, experts said. At the federal level, 52 government agencies had launched, or planned to begin, at least 199 data-mining projects as far back as 2004, according to a Government Accountability Office study."
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Government Adds Consumer Databases To Mining Queries

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  • by qw(name) ( 718245 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:31PM (#15543289) Journal

    Commercial companies are doing far worse and most of them don't ensure the same level of privacy as the government would maintain.

  • by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) * on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:34PM (#15543326)
    I don't have a great deal of faith in the government's regard for my privacy. I think it is all too likely that some of this data will either be:
    1) "Mentioned" in a conversation with a reporter, or
    2) Recorded in a portable medium (disks of some sort) and lost accidentally.
  • by mrraven ( 129238 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:34PM (#15543327)
    What like sell their data to the government? Hmmmmm...
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:34PM (#15543329)
    "It was terribly dangerous to use cash when you were in any public place and not a member of a loyalty program. The smallest thing could give you away. A falafel here, an unconscious visit to a halal butcher, a habit of not drinking, anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to have insufficient data on your credit card record, was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Amspeak: feedcrime"

    - G. Orwell, Functional Specification: A Consumer Data Mining Model for Homeland Security

    The damndest part is that I drink like a fish, and the only problem I have with pork is my Homeresque refusal to believe that things as wonderful as bacon, ham, and sausage can all come from the same, magical animal.

    Unfortunately, I live next to a really good butcher's shop, and have no need of a loyalty-card based chain grocery stores. Guess I gotta get out there and start buying Lee Greenwood albums on my credit card or something.

  • by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:36PM (#15543341) Homepage
    Yes but we expect companies to be greedy and to try to get away with as much as they can. On the other hand the government is supposed to represent the people and respect our rights. A company is created by a few people for their benefit, but the government is created by all the people, and it should be run to the benefit of everyone, not just the power-hungry and the wealthy.
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:41PM (#15543399)
    ANd that isn't right either. The US needs some real data protection laws, similar to whats in Europe. SOmething along the lines of "Its illegal to sell non-annonymized personal data, without their written permission. You are not allowed to make price breaks or sales of goods/sevices dependant on giving written permission" and "It is illegal to give personal information to the government without a court order." and put a nice long jail term and fine on each of those.
  • by glsunder ( 241984 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:02PM (#15543590)
    Where's the oversight?

    Thats what this is all about. People can make a lot more money with no oversight.
  • by ScottLindner ( 954299 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:05PM (#15543642)
    You should have the same level of trust for the companies that are quietly selling your company to anyone that is willing to pay the price.

    At least with the government, they are looking for illegal activity (currently). The commerical world could give a rip what you do, or how their actions harm you. It's all about making money.

    Every visit a site to buy something, tell them to not bug you, and the next day your new email address is thrashed with SPAM? Happens all the time to me. I create a new email address for each vendor and have the email pulled into a special account I use for buying stuff online. It's too painful to check every account so I use this one account to know when something is up with an order. It sucks to see how so many companies actively violate their own privacy policies sometimes within minutes, and especially when they provide you the falicy of protection from such abuse with a meaningless check box that has the words "Exclude from third parties..." yadda yadda yadda .. BULLSHIT!

    But yah.. let's keep up the group hate for the government since it is the only thing to focus our hate on these days.
  • history? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ( 807087 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:06PM (#15543656)
    i so love it when a vested interest puts words in the public's mouth.

    from the article:

    "The public is willing to bend the rules a little bit with respect to privacy," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, adding that Americans showed similar tendencies during the "red scares" after World War I and World War II. "They are giving the government the benefit of the doubt in large part because they are concerned about terrorism."

    yep, the us government really showed how much they can be trusted in these situations. mcarthy didn't go over the top at all...

    ps yes, that was sarcasm
  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:13PM (#15543743) Homepage Journal
    There is a slight problem.

    You are asking the legislature and executive branches of government to pass bills into law which would limit their power.

    Not. Gonna. Happen. in today's world. :(

    Use your vote wisely. Vote out the current scumbags, and give a new crook a chance. ;)
  • Democracy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:28PM (#15543931)
    Yes but we expect companies to be greedy and to try to get away with as much as they can. On the other hand the government is supposed to represent the people and respect our rights. A company is created by a few people for their benefit, but the government is created by all the people, and it should be run to the benefit of everyone, not just the power-hungry and the wealthy.

    Theoretically, in a democracy, the government is elected by the people. Unfortunately the selection of candidates available to be elected is usually controlled by a smal clique of wealthy people since it has become so expensive to run for office that no normal person can afford it without sellign his/her soul to these special interest groups. So in effect it is they who are create the government, not the people. Sometimes I get the feeling that the only thing that keeps democracy from being a totally unworkable system of government is the fact that the pack of weasels that make up the government are usually to busy the stabbing each other in the back to concentrate fully on their great design which seems to be to bring about the total collapse of human civilization as we know it. That and the fact that once in a while.... uhmmm.... make that once in a loooooooong while the people grow a spine, get off their ass and remind their 'elected representitives' that governments should never forget to fear their electorate.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:40PM (#15544048) Homepage Journal
    Actually....I'll bet one 'neat-o' result of this...finding all you naughty people out there that are not paying taxes on your internet purchases!!

    I'll bet there are other good relationships they can find to make the citizens 'pay more'....

    Some states (Mass?) are already doing stuff like this...wait till you get it on a Fed. level...

  • by DesertWolf0132 ( 718296 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:47PM (#15544117) Homepage

    A government of the people, by the people, for the people? What kind of whacked out pinko commie rhetoric is that? For the people...puleeeze... Next what will you want? Votes that actually count? How about free karma points while you are at it? I guess you will want a government that sticks to that liberal manifesto...what do you call it...The Bill of Rights next? Don't you know that thing is also called the Presidential toilet paper?

    This is the NSA and we approve this post.

  • by Goblez ( 928516 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:55PM (#15544200)

    The problem with your assement here is the definition of what's illegal. Sure, that's fine if it's ensuring that violent criminals are being taken care of, but as it's used against (yours, ours, my) children for downloading music, or later down the road against those that disagree or speak against what they do (or what we don't know that they do), then you have a problem.

    And maybe if you think everyone is just group hating the government, maybe you need to pay closer attention.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @06:17PM (#15544387)
    I have a hard time understanding how this is even legal. It seems like the government is barred from doing certain things, so they instead pay somebody to do it for them. Shouldn't paying contractors -- knowingly, to commit what would otherwise be a crime -- be a crime as well?
  • by jkauzlar ( 596349 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @06:34PM (#15544517) Homepage
    The only example you gave was the RIAA, which is a monopolistic sort of union that by reason of its monopoly can get away with all kinds of shit that most companies can't. K-Mart has to be fairly courteous to their customers and not accuse them of terrorism, pat them down before leaving the store, etc. Microsoft can get away with some of the same shit, like putting spyware in their OWN operating system. All of that shows what kind of unreasonable power they have. Most companies that are not monopolies are just trying to improve their marketing, which is mostly alright with me, considering that the alternative is blind mass mailing. The gov't is not trying to sell us anything. They want to maintain as much power as possible over the people. We don't know if they want to protect Americans or protect themselves, hence the checks and balances of the Constitution. That last point is what most Americans don't seem to get. Our 'freedom' relies entirely on that point.
  • Re:Uh Oh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:49PM (#15549650)
    "Actually, they are. Perhaps you don't read enough news. Or, maybe you think those organizations are small monoliths, restricting their members and activities to that area?"

    The U.S. and Pakistan has made no viable effort in the tribal areas of Waziristan []. Afghanistan and has turned it in to a narco-state thanks to the corruption of the U.S. supported government, and on the other hand a home for a resurgent Taliban. You see the U.S. backed government is so bad, the Taliban looks good by comparison. Rumsfeld's failed strategy of using the North Alliance on the ground and the U.S. in the air, scattered the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It did very little to actually catch or punish them.

    " In it you list things the FBI should have done (which would have "stopped" 9/11), which is pretty much exactly what they're trying to do now."

    You fail to grasp the concept. You see the FBI could have stopped 9/11 just using some basic police work and good communication, with the powers they had pre 9/11 and and pre patriot act. They don't need to spy on all Americans to catch Al Qaeda. The FISA courts worked fine the way they were, sure it was some paperwork but that is a small price to pay to prevent spying on innocent people.

    What they are doing now is massive overkill and of dubious merit. It is in like making you take your shoes off to get on an airplane. It makes it seem like they are doing something when in fact they are just punishing innocent people to give those same people a false sense that they are doing something effective.

    "They are buying data from the commercial sector and using it. This is spying how?"

    Because they can and probably are correlating it with all the other data they have, much of which is illegally obtained like our phone call records, and evesdropping on our every form of communication without FISA warrants, probably illegally accessing our IRS records, sneak and peak searches which is basically the Patriot act authorizing the government to break and enter in to our homes and businesses withour our knowledge.

    The cumulative effect is our government is accumulating vastly more information about us than they should. Knowledge is power and when our government can use computers and networks to accumulate all this information about us they are becoming enormously dangerous. If I could trust them that would be one thing, but Hoover and Nixon and all the bad things the CIA and FBI have done in the past when they started spying on America suggests they can't be trusted. It is inevitable all this spying will turn in to spying on dissidents, to suppress dissent, and smearing political opponents to suppress democracy, and to just suppress our right to free speech and right to privacy in general.

    " (You don't think they would have discovered the Saudis learning to take off and not land without the "mining", do you?)"

    Dude, the flight schools they were at reported them to the FBI because they were being suspicious. As I recall TWO different schools reported them in Arizona and I think Minnesota. THERE WASN'T ANY MINING INVOLVED. They ARRESTED Moussaoui a month before 9/11 because of it, and were holding him on a visa violation. The FBI could have foiled 9/11 with some basic police work but they didn't because they are an inept bureaucracy.

    " How then do you suggest they determine those individuals that are doing suspicions things which might lead to another 9/11? "

    Arab men in this country on visa's deserve more some scrutiny by default, since all the 9/11 attackers were Arab men and citizens of Middle Eastern countries and likely will be in the future. Unfortunately there is a degree of racial profiling there but, but its against people who aren't U.S. citizens and I am OK with that, that is a smaller price than trashing the civil liberties of citizens who have done nothing wrong nor will they.

    You see you are presuming all this bullshit is actually going to foil th

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"