Report Casts Doubt On Anti-Terrorism Tools

Oct 14, 2008

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences, part of which was co-authored by an Indiana University School of Law--Bloomington professor, casts doubt on the effectiveness, lawfulness, and appropriateness of using data-based tools such as data-mining and biometrics to fight terrorism. The report, "Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment," is the product of a three-year study by the Academy's Committee on Technical and Privacy Dimensions of Information for Terrorism Prevention and Other National Goals. According to the report, automated data-mining techniques that search databases for unusual patterns of activity "will be extremely difficult" to use successfully for counterterrorism because of legal, technological, and logistical problems. The report offered two specific recommendations: first, counterterrorism programs that rely on personal data should be evaluated for their effectiveness, lawfulness, and impact on privacy, and second, Congress should examine and update privacy laws to reflect dramatic technological changes.