November 2, 2006 | By David Sobel

Homeland Security to "Target" Millions in Data-Mining System

The Department of Homeland Security today published a notice in the Federal Register disclosing the existence of a "new system of records" -- the Automated Targeting System (ATS) -- that assigns "risk assessments" to millions of U.S. citizens who seek "to enter or exit the United States" or whose work involves international trade. The system appears to involve the data-mining of massive amounts of information derived from a wide variety of sources, including Passenger Name Record (PNR) data obtained from commercial air carriers.

The "risk assessments" generated by the system will be retained for "up to forty years," according to DHS, in order to "cover the potential lifespan of individuals associated with terrorism or other criminal activity." But wait -- just because you're currently innocent, that doesn't mean you get a free pass. As the notice goes on to explain,

All risk assessments need to be maintained because the risk assessment for individuals who are deemed low risk will be relevant if their risk profile changes in the future, for example, if terrorist associations are identified.

DHS has exempted all of the data contained in the ATS from the "access" and "correction" requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974, which means that citizens have no right to learn about their own "risk assessments" or to challenge them. Franz Kafka, call your office . . .

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