Just in time for the Hayden confirmation hearings USA Today recycles the NSA survveillance story with hints of nefarious purposes behind the data mining of telephone traffic patterns. I would remind you that this is what happens every day when traffic engineers monitor traffic patterns, when your grocery store discount card provides the company with detailed records of buying patterns, when Amazon suggests you might like a particular book. Data mining and traffic pattern collection is part and parcel of every day commercial life. Would you deny to those charged with our security the right to do what merchandisers do every day?
When any of the tens of millions of Capital One credit card customers call the company, the firm's computers correlate the data they have on their buying patterns and recent purchase activity to predict why they are calling. The call is routed to just the right customer service representative who knows with near certainty what he needs to do to solve their problem and what additional products or services to offer that their likely to buy. All of this happens in a fraction of a second.
ChoicePoint is one of nation's largest brokers of personal information. They can reach out and grab criminal records, motor vehicle records, credit histories, business records and a wealth of other data about you. Unlike the government, ChoicePoint allowed personal records of nearly 160,000 citizens to be compromised last year.
Unlike the government, private business will almost never get rid of your information as long as there is a hope of selling you something. Maybe you didn't want the personal loan or the vacation package, but an analysis of your recent buying habits shows the purchase of a lot of baby clothes and diapers; watch how fast you start getting offers for life insurance or cord—blood storage services. And when they've tapped you out they'll sell your data itself to someone else for one last buck.
Terrorists want to separate us from the corporal world. Does it make any sense not to pursue them with all the means within our power — including the very limited use of personal information — with at least as much skill and vigor as the people who are just trying separate us from our money?
Hat tip: Strata—sphere
Clarice Feldman 5 11 06
Macsmind says that today's story was a planted leak and is related to the earlier story about NSA refusing to give security clearances to the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility.