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To The NSA Your Book Club Looks Like A Terrorist
mtippett | May 25, 2006 at 03:13 pmby
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Privacy issues aside, it's worth wondering what the NSA plans to do with the mountains of call records it has allegedly been collecting. In the past we've expressed serious doubts on the efficacy of data mining and social network analysis as techniques for combating terrorism. One of the problems with social network analysis, in particular, is that terrorist networks resemble other benign networks, like a book club, or a group of parents who carpool their kids to school. Looking only at calling patterns, it'd be impossible to determine whether a group is coordinating an attack, or simply a way to get make sure everyone got news that the book club had changed venues that night. The NSA will soon learn the lesson that the Tampa police learned from their experiment in facial recognition, that the number of false positives could render the system useless. At the moment, the debate over NSA domestic spying seems to be between civil libertarians and privacy advocates on one side, and security hawks on the other. But it's hard to see why those that defend the system can support what's likely to be a fruitless waste of security resources.