Advocacy Group Seeks Broader Definition of Federal ‘Data Mining’


Many federal efforts that arguably use data mining might be flying under the radar because the law requiring agencies to report on such activities applies a very narrow definition of the practice, according to a Constitution Project report. Broadening that definition was among several policy recommendations the nonprofit organization made in the report, reports Data mining refers to information searches designed to identify individuals involved in terrorism or crime.

The Constitution Project advocates broader definitions of data research. “We recommend expanding the definition of data mining programs under the act to reflect the broader definition applied in this report, and thereby require reporting on a greater number of programs,” the study stated. The project’s senior counsel, Sharon Bradford Franklin, acknowledged Congress would have to mandate such a change, and that likely will take time. The federal government has applied data mining tools to detect tax fraud, as well as to investigate misuse of economic stimulus funds. The technique has broad security applications, but critics are concerned the collection and retention of data for mining might violate privacy, due process and free speech rights.

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