Both Parties Push Oversight of Government Data Mining

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 11, 2007 | Go to article overview

Both Parties Push Oversight of Government Data Mining


Byline: Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Democrats and Republicans found one issue they can agree on during the first 100 hours of the new session congressional oversight of government data mining, which both sides say is an unwarranted invasion into the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a hearing Wednesday morning on the privacy and security implications of nearly 200 data-mining programs used by more than 50 federal agencies.

Afterward, he and Sen. John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican, introduced legislation that administrations would report such programs and activities to Congress.

"Advances in technologies make data banks and data mining more powerful and more useful than at any other time in our history," Mr. Leahy said. "These can be useful tools in our national security arsenal, but we should use them appropriately so that they can be most effective."

Mr. Leahy warned that the potential for abuse requires oversight. "A mistake can cost Americans their jobs and wreak havoc in their lives and reputations that can take years to repair," he said.

The data mining involves taking information collected by data brokers to detect patterns of behavior or track an individual. The data can include credit-card purchase details, airline-ticket and frequent-flier information, bank and medical records, even magazine subscriptions and phone information.

Data mining is often used to track those who default on student loans or launder money. Homeland Security Department officials hope to use the technology to screen airline passengers and at border crossings.

Mr. Sununu said data mining can be an essential tool to detect patterns that point to terrorist activity.

"However, it is imperative that we understand the impact of such technology on Americans' personal privacy. …

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Both Parties Push Oversight of Government Data Mining
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