Saturday, February 27, 2010

Data Mining: Is Credit Card Fraud More Serious Than Terrorism?


This is clearly appeasement politics gone bad. People are okay with data mining when it is used to fight against consumer fraud with relation to credit cards but are not alright with data mining when it comes to our safety from terrorists. This country has become A$$ backwards. This is ludicrous!! Our government has given up a very important capability to sift out who are and who are not terrorists. It is clear that the civil libertarians overreacted to this necessary and effective tool that could have been used to protect us from terror while maintaining our privacy at the same time. Civil libertarians consistently defend Individual rights to the enth degree even when it is to the detriment to our national security. This is on more instance where political appeasement took precedent over Americans' safety.

Here is an interesting article I found that was written by John Yoo about data mining as it relates to terrorism and how valuable information is being lost in the fight to stop terror because our government isn't willing to allow its use against terrorists.


The U.S. is fighting terror with one hand behind its back by refusing to exploit data-mining tools.


With the arrests last week of 24 alleged terrorists in Britain, the government's legal tools for fighting Al Qaeda are up for debate once again. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggests that Congress emulate Britain's law allowing extended pretrial detention of suspects. Others have observed that British law enforcement can more easily initiate investigations and obtain search warrants than their American counterparts.

But increasing detention time or making warrants easier to come by merely extends an old-fashioned approach to catching terrorists. These tools require individualized suspicion and "probable cause"; police must have evidence of criminal activity in hand. Such methods did not prevent 9/11, and stopping terrorists, who may have no criminal record, requires something more.

Instead of enlarging the scope of standard law enforcement methods, we should be doing what Americans do best--innovating and applying new technology to the problem. Despite what civil libertarians might have you think, that means data mining.

Data mining uses supercomputers to analyze vast amounts of information for suspicious patterns of behavior. It appears to have been an important tool in breaking up the plot in Britain. According to news reports, British authorities searched telephone, e-mail and banking records and uncovered connections between the bombers in Britain and their supporters in Pakistan.

American efforts to develop sophisticated data-mining abilities died early in 2003, when criticism killed the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program. The idea was to develop mining techniques to compare information in government and commercial databases. Civil libertarians engaged in a scare campaign representing the TIA as an unchecked Big Brother. Congress cut off all funding for the program. It was a political defeat early in the war on terrorism, and the president retreated as fast as he could.

But that was a dangerous overreaction. Corporations already use data mining to detect consumer fraud and to market products such as credit cards and magazine subscriptions. Financial companies analyze patterns that might indicate a stolen credit card or bank account number. Why should the government be barred from using similar tools on similar databases to protect the country from attack? Data mining is nothing but an ordinary, ubiquitous feature of technology today.

In fact, the government also already uses modest forms of data mining. In response to drug cartels and organized crime, federal authorities are allowed to search banking records for signs of money laundering. Such analysis has already paid off in the war against terror by identifying groups that funnel funds to extremist organizations.

What about privacy concerns? The Supreme Court has found that the information in business records does not merit 4th Amendment protection because the consumer has already voluntarily turned over the information to a third party.

Still, civil libertarians object to data mining because most of the records and communications that would be searched are innocent, and there is no suspicion of criminal activity attached to any individual whose records may be mined. When the National Security Agency was discovered in May to be looking at telephone billing information on millions of calls within the United States, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) railed at a hearing: "Are you telling me tens of millions of Americans are involved with Al Qaeda?"

But it's important to remember that data mining is not the same thing as gathering the information in the first place. The NSA's program of looking at billing information, for example, doesn't raise the same constitutional issues as its other recently revealed program: warrantless wiretaps. There, the content of communications was captured. A federal trial judge in Detroit enjoined such surveillance Thursday, in a decision already on appeal.

Data mining could be controlled and developed so that it protects us from terror and maintains our privacy. Analysis could be limited to data already turned over to third parties. Searches could be performed initially by computer; only after a certain level of suspicious activity had been registered would an intelligence or law enforcement officer be allowed to see the results. A warrant could still be required to investigate the content of communications or the purpose of purchases.

Right now, we're fighting terror with one hand behind our back by refusing to exploit data-mining tools. London's success should serve notice that we must use our technological sophistication and reject the sky-is-falling claims of the extreme civil libertarians.

H/T goes to American Enterprise Institute For Public Policy Research

13 comments:

Chris W said...

Great post.

As someone who is ever fearful of government intrusion into our personal lives I would be a little concerned but you made a great point that this information is already in the public sphere and is readily available to anyone who seeks it.

If this is the case and would not interfere in the civil liberties of any law abiding American, I say why not.

cube said...

"Follow the money" is an age old strategy used by law enforcement. It can also be used against terrorist money laundering endeavors. I must add that I had a lot more trust in government during Bush's term than I do now.

Lately it feels as though we have fallen down the rabbit hole.

Christopher said...

It is amazing to me that people are not aware of exactly who and where we are to the government?

Like the census is really an obsolete tool now. Does anyone think that if you avoid your taxes you will not be found? Does anyone honestly believe the government does not know where all the illegals are? Answers to those questions is the IRS will ALWAYS find you and yes, the government DOES know where they are, how else could they COUNT them for reasons of health care?

The problem with data is that the government does not use it in the proper manner.

zyxo said...

the problem with data mining to fight against terrorism is what is called "false positives" : data mining techniques can give you the people with a high probability of being terrorists, which is not the same as "... can give you the terrorists".
If an average guy has 1 chance in 100.000 of being a terrorist, with data mining you can perhaps augment that probability to 1 chance in 1000 (which is by the way a very good data mining result). But what will you do to find that one terrorist between the other 999 honest, hardworking citizens ? Are you gonna torture them all ?

Teresa said...

Chris W,
I was a little concerned also. But, I think its a very reasonable technique needed to thwart terrorism.

Teresa said...

Cube,
I had more trust under Bush also. Following the money makes logical sense.

Teresa said...

Chris,
Whether data uses it proper depends on the President and the honesty of people.

Would you not have police departments because of a chance of abuse within the deapartments?

This data could be important to stop terorists and we cannot let our fears override necessities that would be a very important tool in fighting the war on terror.

Teresa said...

zyxo,
Here are a few questions/points I am going to make:

1) Are you against data mining with regards to credit fraud?

2) The government would not just use one particular piece of evidence to data mine, but in fact piece together a few or many pieces of evidence to prove patterns of terroristic activities.

3) This would require a warrant so evidence would be needed to prove that this person is a terrorist-Just like our police prove other things using warrants. They have to have some evidence of suspecting a crime or terrorism before they can get a warrant.

4) Enhanced interrogation techniques are not torture. I don't want human "rights" organizations dictating our national security safety procedures .
The United States has never used torture and never will.

Liberty said...

I find data mining, in either context, to be a stupid practice- not to mention unConstitutional.

As one of those "civil libertarians", I don't think we've overreacted at all. Sorry, but people nosing into mine or anyone else's private data to find "proof" of terrorism is unconstitutional. It is against every tenet our Founding Fathers held dear, and against every principle of freedom they put into the Constitution.

If the price of being "safe" is losing all my liberty, I don't want to be "safe."

Teresa said...

Liberty,
Are you against credit card companies gaining data to fight against fraud?

Once you have a credit card your data is not private. Additional third parties are able to buy your information and sell it again to other businesses so that they are able gather and use that information to target more customers as buyers for merchandise. They can do that same thing with fraud, criminals, and terrorists. The information has already been made public when the person hands over information to a third party.


"In fact, the government also already uses modest forms of data mining. In response to drug cartels and organized crime, federal authorities are allowed to search banking records for signs of money laundering. Such analysis has already paid off in the war against terror by identifying groups that funnel funds to extremist organizations."

Our government already uses data mining to fight drug cartels and organized crime. The Supreme Court has ruled that you have given up certain privacy rights when you give certain information to third parties and that in fact data mining does not violate a person's 4th amendment rights. So, with that ruling, data mining is considered Constitutional.

What methods should be allowable in your opinion to fight terrorism?

Liberty said...

"Are you against credit card companies gaining data to fight against fraud?"

If they're doing it in an underhanded way that a) I don't know about, or b) that I didn't authorize, yes, I am. Of course, that kind of thing is kind of expected of credit card companies and the like; after all, that is, in some cases, what we pay them to do.

I find the defense that "well, credit card companies do it too" to be silly. If all the credit card company CEOs jumped off a bridge, would you expect our President and Congress to follow?

"What methods should be allowable in your opinion to fight terrorism?"

Anything they can get a warrant for. If they can prove to a judge that they have just cause, and can legally obtain a warrant, then go ahead. They can do their thing. Until then, I consider any intrusion into my private records (in which I include phone bills, library records, credit card records, bank statements, social security numbers, birth records, etc.) as unconstitutional and illegal.

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Billy S. said...

Data mining is here to stay whether we like it or not. Of course we would prefer it when data mining is used for good purposes. If you do not want your data to be mined, then do not post it anywhere in the net.

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