Another Data-Mining Project Bites the Dust

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), after spending $42 million, has shut down its anti-terrorism data-mining tool Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE). Seems that it was being tested with information on real people rather than made-up data, which was against policy and probably the law.

According to the AP story, "ADVISE is not expected to be restarted," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said. DHS' Science and Technology directorate "determined that new commercial products now offer similar functionality while costing significantly less to maintain than ADVISE."

ADVISE (I wonder how long and how much it cost to come up with that acronym) was supposed to, among other things, report on suspicious people going through customs. In a bit of multiple ironies, the London Guardian disclosed just the day before ADVISE was being closed, that the Metropolitan Police's Special Branch had been spying on George Orwell.

One report from 1942 noted that Orwell was a suspicious character because he dressed "in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours."

Hmm, I wonder if ADVISE was also data mining for people who fit the profile "bohemian fashion," "work hours"and "leisure hours" as a match for "suspicious person." If not, maybe the new, commercial data mining products can be set to be lookout for these characteristics - never know who you might catch.

And just think what Special Branch could have done with ADVISE back then.

One final thing - Orwell was also deemed by those watching him as holding Communist views. Obviously, Animal Farm nor 1984 were high on Special Branch's reading list.


Risk Factor

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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City