September 10, 2007 | By Hugh D'Andrade

DHS Scraps ADVISE Data-Mining Software

The Department of Homeland Security?s (DHS's) ADVISE has followed a familiar pattern. Just like Total Information Awareness (TIA) and CAPPS II before it, ADVISE was once touted as an essential tool in protecting national security, only to fall from grace once serious mistakes and privacy abuses were revealed. But dead programs in a National Security state never quite die ? they are often just re-shuffed and re-named.

Since 2003, the DHS has spent $42 million developing ADVISE software, which is intended to identify patterns hidden in vast stores of data that could reveal suspicious behavior. But the program was suspended in March after the Government Accountability Office warned that the program could lead to individuals being falsely linked to criminal or terrorist activities. Subsequent investigations from the DHS Privacy Office and the DHS Inspector General found that live data, including personal information from real individuals, was used to test the software, creating ?unnecessary privacy risks.?

Now DHS has announced it is unceremoniously dumping the program, noting that ?new commercial products now offer similar functionality while costing significantly less to maintain than ADVISE.?

ADVISE joins a growing list of programs on the government?s scrapheap. The Transportation Security Administration?s (TSA) controversial passenger profiling system, CAPPS II, was shut down after officials were caught lying about the use of using real passenger data in testing the system. And Congress de-funded TIA in late 2003 after its privacy invasive data-mining scheme was revealed to the public.

Unfortunately, like the cyborg cop in Terminator II, the scattered pieces of these programs have slowly re-assembled themselves, re-emerging later under new names. The agencies that direct these programs remain in denial about privacy dangers, and without accountability and public oversight they continue to repeat the mistakes of the past, virtually guaranteeing expensive programs that will eventually be discontinued once privacy violations emerge ? assuming that we hear about the programs in the first place.


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