Data Mining for Terrorists Doesn't Work, Results in Dead Dogs


A fat new report from the National Research Council finds that sweeping data mining to turn up terrorists won't catch the next OBL.

The authors conclude the type of data mining that government bureaucrats would like to do—perhaps inspired by watching too many episodes of the Fox series 24—can't work. "If it were possible to automatically find the digital tracks of terrorists and automatically monitor only the communications of terrorists, public policy choices in this domain would be much simpler. But it is not possible to do so." 

And unlike most of the avalanche of pointless white papers that buries Washington policymakers, there's a decent chance Congress will actually pay attention to NRC's recommendations—they're the ones who convinced Congress that encryption software shouldn't be handled under the same laws as bombs for export controls in the 1990s. 

CNET's article about the report (by reason contributor Declan McCullagh) links to reason's own Radley Balko. Spot the key phrase:

They aim to produce a scholarly evaluation of the current technologies that exist for data mining, their effectiveness, and how government agencies should use them to limit false positives–of the sort that can result in situations like heavily-armed SWAT teams raiding someone's home and shooting their dogs based on the false belief that they were part of a drug ring.