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Analysts Weigh In On Data Mining Reporting Act

January 15, 2007

A bill introduced in Congress last week called the Federal Agency Mining Reporting Act of 2007 would place checks and balances on the U.S. government's use of data mining to thwart terrorism.

At least one expert thinks that the benefit of such a bill's enactment into law would be to establish the extent in which data mining is helpful in anti-terrorism efforts.

Such a point was made to Computerworld Magazine's Jackumar Vijayan by Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at managed service provider BT Counterpane in Mountain View, Calif. "But we can't even begin talking about that issue until we know the scope of the [data mining] being done," Schneier told Vihayan.."The proposed bill would at least 'allow us to know what the heck is going on.'

For any legislation to be effective, though, it has to cover issues such as justifying data mining programs and minimizing the amount of data being collected, as well as data retention and destruction, Vijayan described Gartner Inc. analyst John Pescatore as saying.

If a bill "just states things very broadly" and doesn't provide specific guidelines on what kinds of data can be collected and used, it may actually pave the way for government agencies to over-collect and misuse data, Pescatore said. "The CAN-SPAM Act was sort of like that," he noted. "In many ways, it made it easier for spammers."

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