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[ba-unrev-talk] GET POLITICAL: Government Information Awareness orShooting Ourselves in the Foot?

Government Information Awareness


Government Information Awareness draws its inspiration from: Total Information Awareness (TIA) System


Shooting Ourselves in the Foot ?

Grandiose Schemes for Electronic Eavesdropping May Hurt More Than They Help


(1) Development of revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories and associated privacy protection technologies.
(2) Development of collaboration, automation, and cognitive aids technologies that allow humans and machines to think together about complicated and complex problems more efficiently and effectively.
(3) Development and implementation of an end-to-end, closed-loop prototype system to aid in countering terrorism through prevention by integrating technology and components from existing DARPA programs such as: Genoa, EELD (Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery), WAE (Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment), TIDES (Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization), HID (Human Identification at Distance), Bio-Surveillance; as well as programs resulting from the first two areas of this BAA and other programs."

"Repository Issues: The National Security Community has a need for very large scale databases covering comprehensive information about all potential terrorist threats; those who are planning, supporting or preparing to carry out such events; potential plans; and potential targets. In the context of this BAA, the term "database" is intended to convey a new kind of extremely large, omni-media, virtually-centralized, and semantically-rich information repository that is not constrained by today's limited commercial database products -- we use "database" for lack of a more descriptive term. DARPA seeks innovative technologies needed to architect, populate, and exploit such a database for combating terrorism. Key metrics include the amount of total information that is potentially covered, the utility of its data structures for data entry and use by humans and machines in searching and browsing, data integration, and capability to automatically populate, and the completeness, correctness, and timeliness of the information when used for predictive analysis and modeling in exploiting the information in these repositories. It is anticipated this will require revolutionary new technology."

"The database envisioned is of an unprecedented scale, will most likely be distributed, must be capable of being continuously updated, and must support both autonomous and semi-automated analysis. The latter requirement implies that the representation used must, to the greatest extent possible, be interpretable by both algorithms and human analysts. The database must support change detection and be able to execute automated procedures implied by new information. Because of expected growth and adaptation needs, the effective schema must be adaptable by the user so that as new sources of information, analytical methods, or representations arise, the representation of data may be re-structured without great cost. If distributed, the database may require new search methods to answer complex, less than specific queries across physical implementations and new automated methods for maintaining consistency. The reduced signature and misinformation introduced by terrorists who are attempting to hide and deceive imply that uncertainty must be represented in some way. To protect the privacy of individuals not affiliated with terrorism, DARPA seeks technologies for controlling automated search and exploitation algorithms and for purging data structures appropriately. Business rules are required to enforce security policy and views appropriate for the viewer's role."

"The potential sources of information about possible terrorist activities will include extensive existing databases. Innovative technologies are sought for treating these databases as a virtual, centralized, grand database. This will require technologies for automatically determining schemas, access methods and controls, and translation of complex English language queries into the appropriate language for the relevant databases."

"DARPA currently has on-going research programs aimed at language translation, information extraction from text, and multi-modal biometric technologies. These component technologies will be used to feed the Information Awareness database but must be augmented by other technologies and new sources of information to dramatically increase the coverage of counter-terrorism information. These other technologies include but are not limited to innovative new methods of database integration, structured information authoring, and exploitation of integrated data streams. Non-traditional methods of identifying and monitoring terrorist activity are anticipated. Populating a database with information derived from masked or deceptive behavior by an adversary is a challenging technical problem. DARPA invites new ideas for novel information sources and methods that amplify terrorist signatures and enable appropriate response."

"Collaboration, Automation And Cognitive Aids Issues: DARPA will be developing technology to support collaborative work by cross-organizational teams of intelligence and policy analysts and operators as they develop models and simulations to aid in understanding the terrorist threat, generate a complete set of plausible alternative futures, and produce options to deal proactively with these threats and scenarios. The challenges such teams face include the need to work faster, overcome human cognitive limitations and biases when attempting to understand complicated, complex, and uncertain situations, deal with deliberate deception, create explanations and options that are persuasive for the decision maker, break down the information and procedural stovepipes that existing organizations have built, harness diversity as a tool to deal with complexity and uncertainty, and automate that which can effectively be accomplished by machines so that people have more time for analysis and thinking. Emphasis needs to be placed on ease of use, adaptation to the user who is often not a scientist or engineer, and implicit encouragement to use the tools to make the users' tasks easier."

"DARPA is seeking innovative technology for automating some of the team processes; augmenting the human intellect via tools that assist teams thinking together, tools that do some of the thinking for people, and tools that support human/machine collaboration in the cognitive domain; and for providing a rich environment for collaboration across existing hierarchical organizations while maintaining the necessary accountability and control. DARPA envisions that the human teams using its system will be drawn from multiple organizations spanning state, local, and federal government. Thus, there will be the need to permit collaboration across organizational-boundaries while providing control and accountability and connection back to the central systems of each participating organization. Technology will be required to support the entire life cycle of such teams. Key challenges include knowledge management/corporate memory, declarative policy generation and context-based enforcement, business rules and self-governance, and planning and monitoring team processes."

"The goals for automation technology include speeding the front-end processes of gathering, filtering, and organizing information and assimilating its content without having to read all of it. On the back-end of the process, technology is needed to automate or semi-automate the generation of efficient and persuasive explanations, and to maintain consistency within a large, distributed multi-media knowledge base. Technology is also required to make the tools and the collaborative environment itself more efficiently used by humans by making it aware of user context and preferences and smart and adaptive to optimize the user experience. DARPA seeks technology to aid the human intellect as teams collaborate to build models of existing threats, generate a rich set of threat scenarios, perform formal risk analysis, and develop options to counter them. These tools should provide structure to the collaborative cognitive work, and externalize it so that it can be examined, critiqued, used to generate narrative and multi-media explanations, and archived for re-use."

Back to Cringely: How, exactly, are they going to automate the protection of our privacy?

No sane person is in favor of terrorism or lawlessness.  But at a time when intelligence agencies are under fire for being not very intelligent, when our leaders are sometimes in too big a hurry to cast blame and take credit, we are building huge information gathering systems that we can't completely control, we can't completely validate, that can be turned against us by our enemies, and that can ultimately be used to justify, well, anything. 

It might be a good idea to think twice about this before we shoot ourselves in the foot.