DARPA's Director Testifies about Data Mining

by David Sklar

Related link: http://www.darpa.mil/body/NewsItems/pdf/TetherMay603.pdf

DARPA is the agency responsible for the Total Information Awareness kerfuffle a few months ago. On May 6, Tony Tether, DARPA's director testified before the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental
Relations and the Census of the US House of Representatives
Committee on Government Reform. He talked about a few of their approaches to data mining, searching, auditability, and maintaining confidentiality.

There aren't many technical specifics in the testimony, but what jumps out at me is how much the "advisory" role of the systems is emphasized. Director Tether envisions the vast searching and pattern-matching engines that DARPA is building as helpful tools for wise humans that consider the information provided as just one input they weigh.

This is an encouraging vision. However, as Director Tether mentions in his testimony, DARPA is just a tool maker. The tools they build are used by Congressional offices, or the FBI, or the CIA, or other government agencies. Given how the TSA is currently hassling anybody named David Nelson, I'm not too hopeful that DARPA's powerful systems will be used responsibly.

In addition to the PDF linked to above, you can read Director Tether's testimony as plain text here

Can investigators be trusted with powerful databases?