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It is my suggestion to be pretty skeptical of the ability of these types of programs, not because the *will* isn't there (it is, though I sure wish it wasn't), but because these are very difficult technical problems to pull off. Having access to a lot of data doesn't wash away the problems of telling the useful data from noise. Just because someone hangs a scary government three-letter-acronym outside their door doesn't mean they have magic bullets that give them solutions to longstanding, very difficult problems, and the incentive structures in place in government labs are not very good ones for encouraging innovative solutions to problems that the rest of the world hasn't solved. For example, they say below that the government's systems "connect the dots", but frankly, those "dots" are subject to the same problems of canonicalization, the need for ontologies to apply *semantics* to that data, data trustworthiness and cleansing, natural language processing, inference in small and noisy datasetc, etc., etc., that very small data mining projects have, but at a *much* larger scale, and *all* of those issues need to be solved for the whole system to really start making sense out of anything.

IOW: it would be my estimate that these kinds of programs are much more bark than bite.

Cheers,
Andy, formerly of DOE research labs...

Dr Andrew J Cleary
Director of Algorithms R&D
Visible Path Corporation
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-----Original Message-----
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum on behalf of Barry Wellman
Sent: Wed 1/25/2006 2:04 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: networked spyware
 
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http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=33212&dcn=todaysnews


NSA spy program hinges on state-of-the-art technology

By Shane Harris, National Journal
The furor over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping,
authorized by President Bush, has focused largely on legal questions --
whether the NSA has the authority to spy on Americans inside the United
States and whether the commander-in-chief can order the agency to do so.

But that debate has largely smothered examination of how the nation's
largest intelligence agency is collecting -- and analyzing -- information
intercepted from hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans. Since the
9/11 attacks, the NSA has abandoned the mantra that guided it in earlier
decades -- Do not spy on Americans inside the nation's borders. Things
have changed, and the NSA may be on the cusp of employing state-of-the-art
technologies to uncover more information about potential terrorists, and
about Americans here at home.

....

the NSA has pursued cutting-edge data-mining technologies that don't just
find key words but also uncover hidden relationships among data points.
These technologies can even detect how a particular analyst thinks,
identify what his or her biases are, and then suggest alternative
hypotheses.

Data-mining systems, which the NSA has publicly pursued and spent millions
of dollars researching, don't just "connect the dots" but also alert
analysts about which dots to connect, which to disregard, and how to
connect them in ways they may never have considered. It is unclear which,
if any, of these data-mining tools the NSA is using to analyze the
domestic information gathered in the current eavesdropping program, but
the tools themselves offer a telling look into the agency's potential to
exploit what it collects, regardless of its legal basis for doing so.

 etc

 Barry
 _____________________________________________________________________

  Barry Wellman         Professor of Sociology        NetLab Director
  wellman at chass.utoronto.ca  http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman

  Centre for Urban & Community Studies          University of Toronto
  455 Spadina Avenue    Toronto Canada M5S 2G8    fax:+1-416-978-7162
	     To network is to live; to live is to network
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