Data Mining: DHS Needs to Improve Executive Oversight of Systems Supporting Counterterrorism, Report to Congressional Requesters   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Data mining--a technique for extracting useful information from large volumes of data--is one type of analysis that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to help detect and prevent terrorist threats. While data-mining systems offer a number of promising benefits, their use also raises privacy concerns. GAO [Government Accountability Office] was asked to (1) assess DHS policies for evaluating the effectiveness and privacy protections of data-mining systems used for counterterrorism, (2) assess DHS agencies' efforts to evaluate the effectiveness and privacy protections of their data-mining systems, and (3) describe the challenges facing DHS in implementing an effective evaluation framework. To do so, GAO developed a systematic evaluation framework based on recommendations and best practices outlined by the National Research Council, industry practices, and prior GAO reports. GAO compared its evaluation framework to DHS's and three component agencies' policies and to six systems' practices, and interviewed agency officials about gaps in their evaluations and challenges. […] GAO is recommending that DHS executives address gaps in agency evaluation policies and that component agency officials address shortfalls in their system evaluations. DHS concurred with GAO's recommendations and identified steps it is taking to address selected recommendations. The department also offered technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate."

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Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov/
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Listed on October 19, 2011 [Critical Releases]