Thursday, November 21, 2002

total information awareness, part two

On Tuesday, I wrote a little bit about the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) new project called Total Information Awareness (TIA). Evidentially, I wasn't the only one expressing concern over the project, and efforts under it to test the gathering of as much private information about people in the US as possible. After reading the transcript of a press conference (scroll about halfway down) from the Pentagon, in which some of those fears were probably meant to be claimed, I'm even more worried about DARPA's proposed new database system.

Some other interesting details about the project are beginning to come out. The New York Times (free registration required for Times' articles) writes about a discarded plan to make changes to the internet called eDNA:
The plan, known as eDNA, called for developing a new version of the Internet that would include enclaves where it would be impossible to be anonymous while using the network. The technology would have divided the Internet into secure "public network highways," where a computer user would have needed to be identified, and "private network alleyways," which would not have required identification.
The Times originally started a wave of media attention on the project with an article on November 9th, followed up by a William Safire column called You are a suspect. This last Sunday, a Times editorial, A Snooper's Dream, called for the project to be shut down pending an investigation.

The New York Times isn't the only paper to criticise the government project. From an editorial in today's San Francisco Chronicle:
The idea of the "Total Information Awareness" campaign is to draw from government and commercial records -- everything from your magazine subscriptions and credit-card purchases to your college transcripts and divorce papers -- to establish individual dossiers. The concept (cooked up by John Poindexter, a figure in the Iran-Contra scandal) is to not wait until an American is suspected of terrorism, or any wrongdoing for that matter, to compile this information. The idea is to have a file that tracks the life of everyone -- including you.
Many other news organizations and advocacy groups have begun to question the project. Overblown hype? Paranoia? Reread the Pentagon transcript, and see if you feel a sense of reassurance that this project won't be that invasive. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has also compiled a great amount of information on the project on their Total Information Awareness page.

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