"Data mining has become one of the key features of many homeland security initiatives. Often used as a means for detecting fraud, assessing risk, and product retailing, data mining involves the use of data analysis tools to discover previously unknown, valid patterns and relationships in large data sets. In the context of homeland security, data mining can be a potential means to identify terrorist activities, such as money transfers and communications, and to identify and track individual terrorists themselves, such as through travel and immigration records. As with other aspects of data mining, while technological capabilities are important, there are other implementation and oversight issues that can influence the success of a project's outcome. One issue is data quality, which refers to the accuracy and completeness of the data being analyzed. A second issue is the interoperability of the data mining software and databases being used by different agencies. A third issue is mission creep--the use of data for purposes other than for which the data were originally collected. A fourth issue is privacy. Questions that may be considered include the degree to which government agencies should use and mix commercial data with government data, whether data sources are being used for purposes other than those for which they were originally designed, and possible application of the Privacy Act to these initiatives. It is anticipated that congressional oversight of data mining projects will grow as data mining efforts continue to evolve. This report will be updated as events warrant."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31798