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Massive FBI Data-Mining Project Needs Congressional Oversight

EFF Calls on Congress to Examine the Investigative Data Warehouse
PRESS RELEASE
April 28, 2009
EFF Calls on Congress to Examine the Investigative Data Warehouse

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called on Congress today to examine the Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW) -- a massive FBI data-mining project that includes a billion records, many of which contain personal information on American citizens. Supporting its request, EFF provided Congress with its new report on IDW, published today with information obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.

EFF sued the FBI for information about the IDW under the FOIA in 2006, but the agency has withheld important details about the collection, maintenance, and use of personal information contained in the huge database. The Department of Justice recently told the court that no additional material will be disclosed, despite the Obama administration's new policies on open government. In a letter sent today to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, EFF says that Congress is the last avenue for accountability and oversight of this potentially dangerous program.

"Nearly two years ago, Senator Leahy noted that the IDW was a system that was 'ripe for abuse,'" said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "We could not agree more. The congressional judiciary committees should examine the IDW and provide the public with needed information about its impact on privacy rights."

While the FBI is still withholding critical information, EFF's lawsuit did uncover some key documents about the IDW. Using these records, EFF has published a report surveying what is known about this massive data collection, and what questions are still unanswered. The report notes that the FBI has identified only 38 of the 53 "data sources" that feed into the IDW. The report also discusses the FBI's efforts to avoid "raising congressional consciousness levels and expectations" about the IDW's privacy impact.

"A data warehouse of the size and power of the IDW requires strict oversight from Congress and the public," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, who authored the new report. "The IDW includes more than four times as many documents as the Library of Congress, and the FBI has asked for millions of dollars to data-mine this warehouse, using unproven science in an attempt to predict future crimes from past behavior. We need to know all of what's in the IDW, and how our privacy will be protected."

For the full letter to Senator Leahy:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_idw/leahy_IDW_ltr.pdf

For EFF's report on the IDW:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/investigative-data-warehouse-report

Contact:

David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
sobel@eff.org

Kurt Opsahl
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

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