Lesson Plan Four (Student Resources)

Surveillance to Data Mining: the Gathering of Information.

From 1934 -1955, Harry Bridges was under investigation and surveillance because he was accused of being a communist. After the attacks on the World Trade Center, many people, both citizens and non-citizens, were also under surveillance to determine if they were terrorists. In both instances, some of these practices were illegal, but were seen by government officials as necessary to protect America.

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 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. 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. (Adapted from the website for the Federation of American Scientists.)