Money Laundering, Terrorism and Financial Institutions - USA Patriot Act Monitor

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5/1/2007 Homeland Security’s Data Mining Project Carries Privacy Risks

To see how financial activity data is integrated by the government into an overall analysis of a potential terrorist operation or organization, one should look at the ADVISE technology of the Department of Homeland Security. ADVISE (standing for Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement), currently in development, will allow DHS (or any other agency or sub-agency with access) to search for patterns in data, including relationships among people, organizations, and events, and to produce a visual representation of such a pattern, called a semantic graph. Such a graphic depiction can look something like the following figure, with the “person of interest” in the center being connected to various individuals, countries, organizations, events, and financial activities, details of which can be found by an analyst drilling down through layers of information.

One concern about the collection of such massive amounts of data, and the detection of interconnections between pieces of information, is that individuals can be associated with terrorist activities who are actually innocent of any connection. The Government Accountability Office has released a report concerning these dangers, and DHS itself has issued several reports on privacy issues arising with increasingly sophisticated technology. The ADVISE system and other data mining projects will be the subject of an article in the July issue of the Monitor.

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