×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Anti-Terrorist Data Mining Doesn't Work Very Well

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the could-have-told-you-and-did dept.

Privacy 163

Presto Vivace and others sent us this CNet report on a just-released NRC report coming to the conclusion, which will surprise no one here, that data mining doesn't work very well. It's all those darn false positives. The submitter adds, "Any chance we could go back to probable cause?" "A report scheduled to be released on Tuesday by the National Research Council, which has been years in the making, concludes that automated identification of terrorists through data mining or any other mechanism 'is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts.' Inevitable false positives will result in 'ordinary, law-abiding citizens and businesses' being incorrectly flagged as suspects. The whopping 352-page report, called 'Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists,' amounts to [be] at least a partial repudiation of the Defense Department's controversial data-mining program called Total Information Awareness, which was limited by Congress in 2003."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

163 comments

Bets....? (4, Insightful)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290439)

I bet this will not change what they are doing or how they are doing it one bit.

Re:Bets....? (2, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290489)

Of course not. And neither major-party presidential hopeful is going to change it, either. We're still going to get stupid hassles from the TSA, we're still going to get the watch list filled with pointless entries based on the name of someone who might have been seen with someone who was linked to someone who claimed to have been involved in a shooting in North Ireland.

I would seriously consider voting for either one that came forward and promised to cut TSA's authority and streamline the process, getting back to only those people who are basically confirmed problems being on the list, no matter what their views might be on Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, or offshore drilling.

I'd run on that platform. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290673)

I would seriously consider voting for either one that came forward and promised to cut TSA's authority and streamline the process, getting back to only those people who are basically confirmed problems being on the list, no matter what their views might be on Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, or offshore drilling.

Vote for me.

I'd take their "no fly" list and identify every single person on it who was a legitimate threat and either have them under 24 hour surveillance or arrested.

The mere concept of a list of names of people who are too "dangerous" to let fly ... but not dangerous enough to track ... that just fucking stupid.

Think about how many people could be killed in the airport terminal itself WITHOUT getting on a plane ... say during the Thanksgiving or Christmas rushes there.

What idiot would let the people on that list (if they were really a threat) into a terminal? Wouldn't you expect them to STOP them BEFORE they get into a position to do that kind of damage?

Re:I'd run on that platform. (4, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290757)

The no fly list doesn't identify people, just names, and it's very exact, so changing charles to chuck will defeat it. The upshot is that it's utterly useless for stopping bad guys, so you can't even identify who's on there - John Smith is on the list, but there are 10,000 of them.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291049)

The no fly list doesn't identify people, just names, and it's very exact, so changing charles to chuck will defeat it.

The FCC has the seven words that can not be broadcast over the air.
The TSA has the million names that can not be flown in the air.
The FCC really lost that competition.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (4, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291263)

The no fly list doesn't identify people, just names, and it's very exact, so changing charles to chuck will defeat it.

No, actually it won't. The newspapers are full of stories of people who were detained or forbidden from flying because their name was similar to a name on the list, or a nickname of a name on the list, or a possible alternative spelling of a name on the list, or names that had once been used as an alias of names on the list.

for example, the name "T. Kennedy" was on the list. Senator Edward Kennedy (whose name does not begin with "T", but who is nicknamed "Teddy") was stopped:
from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

"In August 2004, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) told a Senate Judiciary Committee discussing the No Fly List that he had appeared on the list and had been repeatedly delayed at airports. He said it had taken him three weeks of appeals directly to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to have him removed from the list. Kennedy said he was eventually told that the name "T Kennedy" was added to the list because it was once used as an alias of a suspected terrorist. There are an estimated 7,000 American men whose legal names correspond to "T Kennedy". (Senator Kennedy, whose first name is Edward and for whom "Ted" is only a nickname, would not be one of them.)"

Re:I'd run on that platform. (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291499)

Right, but flying under your middle name does work. As does claiming that you lost your ID (but if you refuse to show it on principle, you can't fly). As does using one boarding pass with matching ID at security, and a different boarding pass with matching ID at the gate.

The realy sad thing is, the people who the government feels are a real threat based on strong intelligence are *not* on the no-fly list! The government doesn't want to reveal to the real suspects that their being watched.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291501)

Boneheaded security guard:

tee? Sounds like ee.
No fly fur u.

Being a security guard, so easy even a caveman can do it.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (2, Interesting)

kalirion (728907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291519)

What would happen if terrorists got nicknames after all major U.S. and U.K. political figures.

Try "chuck" (2, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291645)

It probably uses Google search engine or similar. Tell TSA-guy you're German and the "'s are part of your name.

At $8/hr TSA-guy isn't paid to think.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291039)

Wouldn't you expect them to STOP them BEFORE they get into a position to do that kind of damage?

Perhaps in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" that just ain't how we're supposed to do things. You wait until BillyBob steals your cow and rapes your horse THEN you string him up! Damned horse-theivin' cattle rustlers.

But I guess we are no longer the land of the free, nor the home of the brave. Yellow ribbon? Yellow alert? "Yellow" used to mean "cowardly". I'm offended by those yellow ribbons, that awful song the yellow ribbons came from was about a prisoner who had committed some terrible crime and was being released, and if the folks back home weren't too ashamed to have him back to "tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree".

If I came back from the service (did my time three decades ago) and there was a yellow ribbon on the tree, I'd kick somebody's ass.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291149)

You've just had your block trolled off by obvious sarcasm.

Re:I'd run on that platform. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25292039)

Unfortunately, we also have a long and sad history of witch hunts that crop up when Americans give into their fears and demand officials take actions. This time around their form and formats abound and have been written into law. The government has gained so much power that many are terrorized by the government and it started well before 9/11. The same people that cry for the dolphin safe nets demand the government go on a fishing expedition for terrorists, drug dealers and drinkers with a far worse net.

If waging war on terrorists results in waging war on Americans who are not terrorists etc, shouldn't the involved officials be tried for treason? It could certainly be called "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" as it raises the level of fear amongst innocent Americans as well as it must make our enemies laugh themselves silly because we and our government are doing their jobs for them.

To the Vets: Thankyou and Welcome Home (wish I had a clean link to Chuck Price song Welcome Home).

Well you have obviously never BEEN on that list. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291523)

Ignorance like this pisses me off immensely.

I have BEEN on that list. Why? My name is extremely common. So every time I went to the airport to check in, some person at the counter would get a little wide eyed, then say "oh there's a little problem with your ticket, I need your drivers license just a minute." Then I'd bite my tongue to avoid saying "don't fucking lie to me just go into the back room and call the 1-800 number, find out I'm not a terrorist, and let me go on my way."

They go into the back room, and call DHS, holding up the line for five minutes to an hour (yes it was an hour once, I almost missed my flight), then come back looking a little relieved and give me my drivers license.

The "no fly" list is completely pathetic. Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy was on it once.

Re:Well you have obviously never BEEN on that list (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 5 years ago | (#25292031)

While you're waiting, think about that poor fellow who saw his friend at the airport and yelled "Hi, Jack!"

Re:Bets....? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290567)

I bet this will not change what they are doing or how they are doing it one bit.

Sadly... no. It means they need to do more of it, with even more control.

Re:Bets....? (3, Interesting)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290605)

I bet this will not change what they are doing or how they are doing it one bit.

They'll be sure to change the amount of money spent on the program. I don't need to clarify whether it'll be more or less, its too obvious.

Whenever something doesn't work in government it seems to get more money and more power.

That leads me to think that maybe the primary function of government is to pretend to fail.

Re:Bets....? (2, Funny)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290627)

That leads me to think that maybe the primary function of government is to pretend to fail.

Why would they need to pretend? They seem to be quite practiced at failing for real to me.

Re:Bets....? (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290759)

Why would they need to pretend? They seem to be quite practiced at failing for real to me.

Pretend as in deliberately failing and making it look like a mistake in order to get more money and power.

Re:Bets....? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291003)

Unfortunately, it also won't change the outcomes. Data Mining requires AI smart enough to sense the reality beneath staggering ambiguities. IOW, it needs smart, educated, alert people.

Re:Bets....? (2, Insightful)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291075)

The question is, "What will you replace it with?"

No, they will not listen when you say the obvious, which is "Get a real job."

Re:Bets....? (2, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291235)

Your lack of faith is completely unwarranted. After all, when the polygraph was shown to be unreliable and thrown out as evidence of guilt...

Right. Nevermind.

NSA Data Mining... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25290451)

...F-A-I-L!

I'm probably going to get creamed for this... (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290469)

I'm probably going to get creamed for this, but what is that image linked to?
I'm young, get over it.
-Taylor

In other news, (3, Insightful)

toby (759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290479)

The Constitution is there for a reason.

Re:In other news, (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290547)

and it is broken constantly... arg what did we expect of our government when the vast majority of people leave it up to the government to police its self... the constitution only bites those who violate it if it is upheld by the people for its intended purpose, to defend the rights of the people against actions by the government.

Re:In other news, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291603)

But politicians don't really care about it. What would be nice is a list of politicians who voted in favor of things that were later found to be unconstitutional. Each time a politician votes for something unconstitutional, they score a point. For every 5 points they score they have to go hunting with Dick Cheney once.

Just give it a few years (3, Interesting)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290513)

And several billion dollars.
And unrestrained access to all of the personal information about everyone that can be gotten by whatever means.

It'll probably still suck then, too.

Re:Just give it a few years (1)

fortyonejb (1116789) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291581)

But at least they will know that last tuesday I had tacos for dinner. Which explains why I spent most of my flight on Wednesday in the head.

Seems (4, Insightful)

speroni (1258316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290515)

What we really need are spies. Not so much in the US, here good old fashioned detective work (with Warrants) should work.

But over seas a standing army isn't going to do anything to quell terrorism. Tanks and plans will only inspire more terrorism. What we need are good old fashioned black ops. Undercover agents penetrating the terrorist groups and talking to the bad guys. Much less collateral damage as well.

We'd get a lot further with a couple guys with silenced pistols rather than a whole army.

Re:Seems (4, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290581)

I seem to recall that much of this was gutted by Congress in the 1990s when they didn't want intelligence operatives paying off criminals for information, on the risk that the money might be tied back to the United States. This severely nerfed the ability of the CIA (among others) to gather HUMINT, as paid informants were a significant source of the information required to infiltrate the groups in the first place. I don't recall if this was ever overturned, though.

Re:Seems (1)

kramer2718 (598033) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290697)

Another thing which is holding back the CIA, etc. from infiltrating the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups is the lack of Arabic/Farsi/Urdhu speakers. There aren't enough teachers because people from those countries who want to migrate here to teach those languages are having a bugger of a time getting visas. It seems like that should be a priority for the government to make sure that people with those crucial skills are encouraged to come and have to deal with less bureaucracy--just expedite their background checks.

Re:Seems (4, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291491)

Don't forget about the military, who stupidly booted some of their translator recruits (yes, middle-eastern languages) for being....OMG TEH GAY!!!1!

Re:Seems You're Right (1)

DougF (1117261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290805)

Thank Carter first of all, and then the technocrats who keep thinking that satellites and planes can replace boots/sandals on the ground. It was decided that the U.S. would only deal with honest, law-abiding citizens in our efforts to catch criminals, terrorists, dictators, etc. What a crock of nonsense. If you want to get the bad guy, you're going to have to get close to him and sometimes that means making deals with "bad" people. Unfortunately, it takes decades to recruit, train, and emplace a spy network, and invariably there will be some blowback from the mainstream/liberal media because we made a deal with some slimeball so we could get the bigger slimeball. The spy game is dirty and nasty, but the payoffs can be tremendous when we can catch people like Bin Laden or stop events like 9/11 from happening.

Re:Seems You're Right (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290891)

What you need is something like the SR-71 that can fly over any time and in most cases avoid enemy fire. (unlike the U2). This is needed because an enemy can figured out when a US spy satellite can fly over so you need something that is random. However thanks to Clinton for finally retiring the SR-71 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR-71 [wikipedia.org]

in October 1997, President Bill Clinton used the line-item veto to cancel the $39 million allocated for the SR-71

Re:Seems You're Right (2, Insightful)

BornAgainSlakr (1007419) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291879)

Yes, because we need an aircraft that can fly faster than mach 3 above 80,000 feet to penetrate terrorist airspace and evade terrorist fighter jets.

They use Predator drones now because, well, they were not manufactured in the 60s, they cost magnitudes less for the same mission, they can perform more than one type of mission, they are unmanned, etc. etc. etc. etc.

The SR-71 was cool and all, but way too antiquated to keep around. Clinton made a good move killing the SR-71.

By the way, how did the SR-71 help anyway? It gave us zero insight into the Soviets...in fact, it did far worse by giving us false insight. It was a waste of money from conception to retirement. But...damn, it was cool...

Re:Seems You're Right (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25292037)

Yeah I guess a Predator with its 400nmi range helps out when you can not get close to the country so you can launch one of the drones. Or you could use an SR-71 with its 2,900nmi range. And yeah a nice jet could come in handy once China gets pissed off at us....

There's a bigger problem with that. (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290809)

As can be seen in the recent "terrorist" arrests in the US. Once you start paying people to turn in "terrorists", you start a market in "terrorists".

So the guy who wants to sell a "terrorist" to the government finds some idiot who meets the basic criteria (non-Christian, non-white) and encourages that idiot to make inflammatory statements while being recorded.

Ka-CHING!

Re:There's a bigger problem with that. (5, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291169)

Reminds me of a bit from Discworld.

To summarize, Ankh-Morpork was over run by rats. The obvious solution was to put a bounty on rats, payable per tail. Soon, the rat infestation was under control but the number of tails being brought in kept increasing.

The Patrician's solution: tax the rat farms.

Re:There's a bigger problem with that. (4, Insightful)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291671)

The GP isn't calling for vigilante groups turning in terrorists. He's calling for old-fashioned cloak-and-dagger HUMINT. It works far, far better than the technological circus we are operating now. Humans will always outsmart machines made by humans. The only real accomplishment of mass government data mining is the oppression of the general public who aren't interesting in outwitting the government. They're just trying to live their lives.

In the old days (Revolution, World Wars, Cold War), when we were aware of our enemies, spies, analysts and cryptographers defeated the enemies with courage, brainpower and skill. Now we've replaced them almost entirely with people in offices. This isn't going to change until we have another wakeup call, and the next one will probably come from Russia. The red bear is back, and we aren't prepared to deal with it (or China). Much of Russia's new technology is ahead of the US, particularly in aerospace submarine areas. We do not have a real missile shield, we do not have space-based weapons, we do not have supercavitating torpedoes (or anything to stop them). About the only encouraging developments we do have are in robotics and lasers.

China isn't very technological (except for those nasty anti-sat weapons), but they have an enormous mountain of people they don't mind sacrificing for whatever they dream up. Their standing army is over 2 million. They're also currently building and testing over one ballistic missile a week.
2005 article [bbc.co.uk] 2007 Article [aviationweek.com] Oct 6, 2008 [heritage.org]

Terrorist data mining won't help much of anything when an EMP hits and the computers are fried.

Re:Seems (3, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290833)

"...gutted by Congress in the 1990s when they didn't want intelligence operatives paying off criminals for information..."

They're still doing it here in the US. The FBI paid a shady informant 230,000 bucks to rat out harmless, loud-mouthed nobodies as part of this [militantislammonitor.org] case:

The government had no direct evidence. The confession was vague and even contradictory. And the statements about attacking American targets came only after heavy prompting from FBI interrogators.

America's FBI: "Incompetance and Pusillanimity through Proxy".

Re:Seems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291033)

No longer an issue (never was)

Re:Seems (1)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291515)

You've been watching too many Hollywood movies. Intelligence officers don't carry silenced guns with them, they are collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data â" a very boring job actually.
Remember that about 80% of top secret information is in some way or another published in mass media. The remaining 20% are known by locals. And I'm speaking about military secrets here. True story â" a military engineer was sent to an apparently top secret facility located in a small town. He was instructed to tell nobody about his goal and his work, but when he has arrived there the first thing he saw was that there was a bus station near this facility called "rocket plant".

Now if you take (rather) amateurish terrorist groups, you'll most likely need people who can listen and then you know all their plans.
Not so long time ago, a soviet military advisory was living with his wife in Afghanistan. Each time some afghan woman came by, his wife was giving her some sweeties for the children claiming that this is a Russian tradition. So this advisory knew about any planned attack which was to happen nearby. Of course, it wasn't only because of sweeties, both he and his wife were actually Muslims from Middle Asia, but I think you get the point.

Re:Seems (2, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291693)

I'm actually well aware of how intelligence works. Merely cultivating contacts is an arduous process, because pushing it too fast can cause them to become suspicious and either stop talking to or actively turn on the recruiter. Some are eager to provide what the recruiter wants, and some take years to provide any useful information.

Your 80/20 assertion is at least partially incorrect, because if it were, the US would have been far less worried about Soviet space program in the later part of the 1960s, and we'd be spending less effort protecting certain sensitive technologies from getting out to various other entities. We wouldn't spend billions on the NRO, and NSA wouldn't need to keep upgrading their SIGINT capabilities each year.

There are situations where you have to interface with informants that are part of the entity being watched, and some of those informants aren't people with whom the US government wants their dealings public. Congress had a small fit about that in the 1990s, and it made life difficult for field agents.

That's a very nice talking point...but... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290713)

But if spies could work, then so could computers.

It's not like you can send in a spy and they try and get a job at the Defense Ministry.. there is no terrorist defense ministry.

You have to send in a spy, and he or she is going to go around 2000 villages in northern Pakistan trying to find a terrorist ring. What do you do? Ask, "hey, do you know anyone who has an atomic bomb?"

In fact, you need to have lots of spies talking to lots of people, almost like a police state, and that set of spies has to be on top of the whole social fabric of the society in detail and in numbers. It turns out, in fact, that you DO need an army to stay on top of all of it!

Re:That's a very nice talking point...but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291403)

That only makes sense if you think the guy in the desert recruiting suicide bombers gives a shit about email.

Re:Seems (4, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290847)

No, what you need is to stop making people hate you - go after al queda, sure, but the guys killing soldiers in Iraq aren't terrorists for the most part, they're resisting a foreign invader. Tell me, does Canada have a big problem with foreign terrorists?

Re:Seems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291735)

No, you cant pick on the retards, thats not right, even for terrorists....pfft, canada

Profiles also work in reverse (5, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290561)

As any Cold War spy can tell you, if you "fit the profile" of a normal law-abiding person with just enough "off-perfect" things in your life so you don't seem "too perfect," it's much easier to blend in.

Re:Profiles also work in reverse (5, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290705)

For example, never ever have 2.1 kids. It's suspiciously normal. Go with 2, maybe 3, to blend in.

They can't collect or process (3, Interesting)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290585)

enough data in any kind of real time to make this work.

Years ago, we were playing with a design of a system to track all the phone calls made on the AT&T network over a 3 month period. (not record the calls, just track the billing info). The machine that management wanted to try and do it on could not hold enough data just to store the data, let alone process it. And that was the largest theoretical model of hte machine there was (about 4 times the size fo the largest one in use at the time). They really needed one about 10 times as large as the largest theoretical one, just to store the data!

Multiple that by the rest of the items one buys during the day, and we can not track all the daa that is out there.

Why did they even waste the money to do the testing and the reports?

Re:They can't collect or process (2, Interesting)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290737)

The problem isn't really the amount of data but rather a clear definition of when data is coming from a real terrorist or not. In natural language processing, it's fairly straightforward to say that some words in a certain context fall under a part-of-speech tag 10% of the time; well the math can be a little tricky. In mining for 'terrorist' your results can be hindered by ambiguity, subterfuge, or context. For ambiguity, I could tell a friend over the phone that he has to bomb a building at 5:00 AM to unlock the 72 virgins in a game. For subterfuge, real terrorists may agree on a series of benign trigger phrases that wouldn't even show up on a terrorist data-classifier of any sort. For context, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist; that is, maybe the actions of what, say the US military, does would register as terrorist activities when stripped of all it's context. So no, it's not really feasible to detect terrorists purely with data because it is heavily context sensitive and subjective.

Re:They can't collect or process (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291789)

Did somebody define "terrorism" already? Last time I saw, the UN was over it, creating several hard arguments.

Re:They can't collect or process (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290899)

What you need is research into good multistep filters: you shouldn't be trying to swallow all the data, you should be trying to throw away as much as possible. This will reduce your central processing boxes to something manageable, possibly even cheap.

Didn't we already know? (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290603)

I thought we already knew this. If the algorithm comes back with even .1% false positives the system is totally worthless. There's 365 million people in the US, .1% means that the FBI/CIA/NSA would have 365,000 people to investigate. Now go and talk to someone in the AI field and see if even .1% false positive is possible.

I'm betting that if a system is going to catch any decent percentage of terrorists (greater than 50%) the false positive rate will be above 1%. Even if you only apply the system to a relatively small number of people (say people entering a leaving the country) you are going to have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to investigate. Combine any kind of realistic false positive rate with the fact that about .00001% of the population deserves to be investigated and the system is worse than worthless; all it will do is distract from the people who should be investigated.

Re:Didn't we already know? (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290751)

Maybe not exactly see you are assuming that .1% is referring to every American. Where in fact you are talking about a subset of Americans. If you are Hispanic you probably will not be checked or even have your name in the database (unless they turn this into an illegal immigration thing). If you are African American you will probably say off of the list if your last name is "American" like Smith, or Jackson but if it is something Muslim your going on the list. If you are White you should have little to worry about. If you are Muslim...your screwed. Now since your original set is now a subset of the whole. You can start to add back in the stragglers from the other races that were excluded. For example if you are that white guy who joined the terrorist in Afghanistan. I bet his name will show up on the list. So in reality if it is a secret program they can racial profile because since it is a secret program the ACLU will be slowed down in filling a lawsuit to stop them from profiling. So in actuality the program may be quite efficient since it is dealing with a small subset of people.

Re:Didn't we already know? (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290791)

I might still go along with a system to find the dumbass terrorists. Not every bad guy is smart, so you're going to get some obviously suspicious activity every once in a while. So if a system spots some guy renting a Ryder Truck, bought 10,000 kg of fertilizer, isn't a farmer, etc, yeah, knock on that guy's door. It's pretty uncommon, but checking a few of these, even if most are false positives, might not be a bad idea.

Re:Didn't we already know? (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291873)

We want to catch the ones that will strap a bomb to their chest and walk into a crowded venue before blowing it. Those aren't going to be your rocket scientist.

Remember, the ones caught in the UK bombings used their cellphones as triggering devices. Their personal cell phones. With messages and addresses and various other data that an intelligent person that didn't want to get caught might consider incriminating.

Re:Didn't we already know? (1)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290793)

actually its worse than you portray. its like pornography. even if you had access to someone's entire history and could detain and interview them indefinately, do you think that you would ever be able to determine if the were are a 'terrorist'? in the absence of some verifiable proof of an act, what would you base your determination on?

Re:Didn't we already know? (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290819)

its like pornography

Is it me or did you start trying to make a point and then you just stopped and switched to something else?

Re:Didn't we already know? (1)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290935)

maybe.

  pornography in the sense of not being amenable to any objective definition. 'you know it when you see it'

Where did logic or reasoning come into it? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290857)

They do it in the movies so it must be possible.

If you're not doing anything wrong then what are you worried about?

Re:False negatives are a worse problem (2, Interesting)

bcwright (871193) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291131)

The biggest problem is actually not the false positives - that would just mean extra wasted effort to screen the individuals, which "only" costs time and money.

The larger problem is that in order to do any real good you need an unbelievably low false negative rate. Let's take the 9/11 hijackers as an example: they were only about 0.00000667% of the population. Unless you could capture all but 2 or 3 them, you're still vulnerable to the plot unless you can get one of the ones you captured to spill the beans - at best you've just mitigated the plot. How realistic is it that ALL 20 (or 19 if you believe that Zacarias Moussaoui was not part of the conspiracy) of them could have been identified (let alone captured) using such a method, even given the expenditure of vast resources sifting through all of the false positives? Even if 4 or 5 of them manage to fall in the "negative" group or, alternatively, if they're able to slip through your second-level screening procedures, you still have a disaster on your hands.

It's not likely that you could get the accuracy high enough to stop very many plots by itself, I suspect.

Re:False negatives are a worse problem (2, Insightful)

Garse Janacek (554329) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291949)

The biggest problem is actually not the false positives - that would just mean extra wasted effort to screen the individuals, which "only" costs time and money.

No. False positives "only" cost the government time and money. For the individuals falsely suspected, it could cost them their career, their relationships, their home, and their freedom, depending on how much "time and money" the government spends on them before realizing they are innocent. (If they ever do, since -- as shocking as it sounds -- there have been a few cases reported where individuals were detained indefinitely without charges, or even evidence.)

Re:False negatives are a worse problem (1)

bcwright (871193) | more than 5 years ago | (#25292187)

No. False positives "only" cost the government time and money. For the individuals falsely suspected, it could cost them their career, their relationships, their home, and their freedom, depending on how much "time and money" the government spends on them before realizing they are innocent.

Not exactly - it also depends on what you DO with the false positives; the negative consequences that you mention only come about if the government takes concrete action against them based solely on "fitting the profile" (Often by holding them for long periods of time without a trial; they'd need more than a profile to bring someone to trial). Although there have been a few highly publicized cases such as you mention, for most such individuals it's no more than an occasional inconvenience, if they're even aware of being on the list at all. Not that I'm excusing the government for some of the things they've done to certain individuals, but those actions are really a separate issue from whether those people were falsely identified in a profile list.

Given the huge number of false positives that are inevitable in such a scheme, the only thing that makes sense to do with anyone identified in such a list is to investigate them more carefully, not to detain them or otherwise make it impossible for them to function in society.

It is, of course, trivially easy to construct a profiling technique that will have ZERO false negatives: Simply put EVERYONE on the list! But then your profiling scheme has rendered itself redundantly redundant. But it does illustrate the difficulty: In order to reduce the false negatives to be (effectively) zero, it is necessary to vastly increase the number of false positives. This is elementary statistics.

Total Information Awareness (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290645)

They have it backwards. Instead of the government knowing everything about the citizens, we need to let the citizens know everything about the government.

Another problem is that even where information is available, the current administration chooses to ignore it. They knew that 9/11-style attacks were imminent, yet they failed to lock the cockpit doors. They knew our economy was headed for disaster, yet they failed to reign in the financiers. SEC, NSA, CIA, DOD, DOJ... all worse than useless in the last 8 years.

In Soviet Amerika (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25290649)

Causes mine YOU.

Diapers (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290821)

That notwithstanding, researchers did suggest that stores could sell more Kalashnikovs by placing them next to the diapers...

domestic corepirate nazi terrorists more dangerous (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25290843)

401 Kaput is a minor example of their foibles, which have been condoned/supported by many of US so far. not much digging is required to unearth some evidence of their life0cidal/felonious behaviors. greed, fear & ego are unprecedented evile's primary weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' hired goons' agenda. most of yOUR dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any notion of prosperity for us, or our children, not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one. see you on the other side of it. the lights are coming up all over now. conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.google.com/?ncl=1216734813&hl=en&topic=n
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080918/ap_on_re_us/tent_cities;_ylt=A0wNcyS6yNJIZBoBSxKs0NUE
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/world/29amnesty.html?hp
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/02/nasa.global.warming.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/05/severe.weather.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/02/honore.preparedness/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/09/28/what.matters.meltdown/index.html#cnnSTCText
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/opinion/01dowd.html?em&ex=1212638400&en=744b7cebc86723e5&ei=5087%0A
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/05/senate.iraq/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/washington/17contractor.html?hp
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/middleeast/03kurdistan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080708/cheney_climate.html
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20080805/pl_politico/12308;_ylt=A0wNcxTPdJhILAYAVQms0NUE
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/18/voting.problems/index.html
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080903/ts_nm/environment_arctic_dc;_ylt=A0wNcwhhcb5It3EBoy2s0NUE
(talk about cowardlly race fixing/bad theater/fiction?) http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/19/news/economy/sec_short_selling/index.htm?cnn=yes
http://us.lrd.yahoo.com/_ylt=ApTbxRfLnscxaGGuCocWlwq7YWsA/SIG=11qicue6l/**http%3A//biz.yahoo.com/ap/081006/meltdown_kashkari.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/04/opinion/04sat1.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
(the teaching of hate as a way of 'life' synonymous with failed dictatorships) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081004/ap_on_re_us/newspapers_islam_dvd;_ylt=A0wNcwWdfudITHkACAus0NUE
(some yoga & yogurt makes killing/getting killed less stressful) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081007/ap_on_re_us/warrior_mind;_ylt=A0wNcw9iXutIPkMBwzGs0NUE

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=weather+manipulation&btnG=Search
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

'The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."
consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

data mining is just a last gasp tool (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290865)

if your goal is intelligence gathering, data mining is rather weak. signs and portents. an increase of chatter hear, an interesting whisper of a phrase there. nothing even remotely solid or actionable, but perhaps something to attune your intelligence gathering in your more concrete and reliable methodologies

datamining is something to back up a hunch, something to suggest an avenue to look where you might find more, something better than a wild ass guess about where to look. but certainly not a front line tool, and certainly not the first place you visit, nor proof of anything. its not evidence, its just scattershot impressionism, to guide you in vague ways. your front line tools are spies and moles. perhaps 1% of their work is supported by or guided by data mining

but, even so, data-mining will never stop

data mining will just devolve in the level of respect it gets to the level of respect it deserves: very little. it's too undependable, foggy, and worse, its subject to counterintelligence manipulation

data mining is not completely useless. just almost completely useless

and so it will still continue, because something is better than nothing

Re:data mining is just a last gasp tool (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25290977)

datamining is something to back up a hunch, something to suggest an avenue to look where you might find more, something better than a wild ass guess about where to look. but certainly not a front line tool, and certainly not the first place you visit, nor proof of anything. its not evidence, its just scattershot impressionism, to guide you in vague ways. your front line tools are spies and moles.

Brilliant piece of taoistic AI poetry, sir.

So this is the equivalent of saying. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25290965)

that the guy named Osama Bin Laden who runs a convenience store on the west side of Chicago isn't the guy who arranged to have airplanes fly into large buildings a few years ago, right? Can we repeal the Patriot Act now?

Bring Back Profiling! (1)

dbmasters (796248) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291045)

So, if dataming doesn't work, you take away profiling as a legal option, what's law enforcement supposed to do!

Re:Bring Back Profiling! (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291267)

Oh, you know, what we hired them to do - actually gathering evidence and following up on clues...

Perfect Solution to False Positives! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291193)

So, our super-duper-not-Orwellian-really datamining system can't be used to save us from The Terrorist Threat(tm) because of too many false positives. Luckily, I have a solution. These so called "false" positives are guilty of obstructing justice and making us all more vulnerable to terror.

See, no more false positives!

It Didn't Work (1)

Slash.Poop (1088395) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291231)

So let's just give up then.

I hate people who, when they can't find a solution, just give up.
I am a firm believer that, there is ALWAYS a solution. If you can't find it you didn't try hard enough.

____________________________
Always look on the bright side of life.

Did anyone else see "NRC" and think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291233)

National Republican Convention?

Paradox of the False Positive (4, Informative)

gknoy (899301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291257)

I realize this is likely starting to sound old, but Cory Doctorow's Little Brother should be required reading for people doing something like this. His writings about the "Paradox of the False Positive" are enumerated there, but also in other sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/may/20/rare.events [guardian.co.uk]

Statisticians speak of something called the Paradox of the False Positive. Here's how that works: imagine that you've got a disease that strikes one in a million people, and a test for the disease that's 99% accurate. You administer the test to a million people, and it will be positive for around 10,000 of them because for every hundred people, it will be wrong once (that's what 99% accurate means). Yet, statistically, we know that there's only one infected person in the entire sample. That means that your "99% accurate" test is wrong 9,999 times out of 10,000!

Terrorism is a lot less common than one in a million and automated "tests" for terrorism data-mined conclusions drawn from transactions, Oyster cards, bank transfers, travel schedules, etc are a lot less accurate than 99%. That means practically every person who is branded a terrorist by our data-mining efforts is innocent.

(emphasis mine)

And, as others have pointed out, this system is likely to have a false positive rate higher than 1%.

Anti-Terrorist? (1)

Kr3m3Puff (413047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291261)

Is it just me, or should the be data mining for terrorist, not anti-terrorists? It is the War on Terrorism right, not War on Anti-Terrorism?

No bitching! (1)

Loopy (41728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291349)

We got here thanks to all the whining and complaining that The Man(tm) was unfairly targeting minorities (and, eventually, everyone) by profiling. Then, people bitched when they started searching grannies too in order to show "random sampling." Well, without being able to target folks based on statistical likelihood because of cries of racism/bigotry and then not being able to search anyone because it was done "stupidly," what are they left with? Blanket searches in the hope that looking in the right spots will yield evidence obvious enough to grant a warrant.

Are you seriously surprised? Hell, if this turns out better than the high-risk credit crisis we're in which was brought about by the same whining and complaining about racism/bigotry, I'LL be pleasantly surprised.

Guilty innocence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291411)

Inevitable false positives will result in 'ordinary, law-abiding citizens and businesses' being incorrectly flagged as suspects.

We consider everybody as innocent unless proven guilty, and treat everybody decently. A false positive shouldn't seem so bad. Should it?

It's not the Data Mining... (2, Insightful)

deweycheetham (1124655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291667)

Having personally used Multiple Data Mining techniques for several years now - It's not that Data Mining doesn't work, rather it's how its used. Data Mining is great at trend forecasting and if you're really good at what you're doing in it you can factor in probabilities of certain future events. The one key factor in data mining is a "Training Set" of Data to teach the machine(s) how to recognize the patterns. Since I suspect Terrorist come from every walk of life, every know nationality, and are using 1 off events this is throwing them a few headaches. The real key is to of course define what is normal, but if the rest of the world is as normal as are we here in the US they don't have a chance to pin point the Target Data (in this case people).

I would also suspect that the Terrorist Motives might be a key factor, but it's like pulling teeth to get any US Administration to admit that their foreign policy is screw up beyond belief, let alone something like a cruddy foreign policy might just result in cruddy foreign relations or popular uprisings around the world. If they did, then we wouldn't need data mining in the first place.

"May You - Live Long and Prosper in Interesting Times" -- by deweycheetham

Follow the money (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291829)

Defense and LE contractors will pay big PAC money to politicians and beltway bandits to dispute these findings. They see the Iraq war winding down and the economy faltering, so the government trough could run dry. Data mining was a big bucks adventure, but not anymore if this report is taken seriously.

False dichotomy (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25291845)

Any chance we could go back to probable cause?

There is no contradiction. Those flagged by the software can be quietly investigated by the government... But an existence of any such an investigation shall not be deemed grounds for, uhm, anything — none of "No Fly" list bullshit, etc... We've always had the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" — but we have not always followed it, because "there is no smoke without fire". Well, there can be — if the smoke-detector raises a false alarm.

Let the software pick up suspects. But let's not treat these innocent people any different — until proven guilty.

Much like a broken smoke detector waking you up in the middle of the night is not grounds for rejecting the idea of automatic smoke detection altogether, this technology can be extremely useful...

obviously they aren't telling us the full story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25291963)

I just saw on TV the right way to do this is to find some guy named "chuck" who is the intersect... ;^)

do77 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25292117)

create, manufacture vo7ume of NetBSD

overfitting (2, Insightful)

glyph42 (315631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25292197)

I said it before and I'll say it again: Any model that is built on 10 or 20 positive examples from a population of 6,000,000,000 is going to suffer from overfitting. Not just a little overfitting... I mean it's going to overfit like a mo-fo. There's just no way, and I mean NO way, to create a statistically significant test based on the data we have on who is and who is not an ACTUAL terrorist.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...