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View Diary: Not your granddaddy's metadata: don't believe the PRISM anti-hype (139 comments)

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  •  False positive rate is extremely high. (8+ / 0-)

    And that's not actually solvable, when you're looking for low-frequency events.

    If you're looking for high-frequency events, the false negative rate is extremely high.

    •  Exactly (7+ / 0-)

      How accurate is the data?  How often are mistakes made in analysis?  And with secret programs, people can be targeted with no due process, no ability to face their accusers.  

      What if an incidental connection gets you caught up in a terrorist dragnet?

      Suppose your pizza man is a terrorist and he has gotten lost coming to your house several times because there are two streets with very similar names in your town and you live on one of them. What if he took the pizza to the house across the street because someone wrote down the wrong number (has happened to me three times) and he called your number to straighten it out.

      That counts as meta data.  It could put you on some kind of suspicion list.  Now suppose in the process of sifting through your data, they discover evidence of another crime, maybe something as simple as marijuana?

      Or take it in a different direction and imagine that an inaccuracy of data or a mistake gets you caught up in a dragnet?  

      Big institutions make big mistakes all the time.  There have been cases where big banks foreclosed on the wrong house and wrecked it.  I think Wells Fargo did it twice to the same man!  

      "Justice is a commodity"

      by joanneleon on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 09:24:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  emptywheel posted a great article on 'false (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joanneleon, sceptical observer

        positives' on three people for buying beauty products.

        So let’s consider what may have happened to three probable false positives who had their lives thoroughly investigated in 2009 after being — wrongly, apparently — tied to Najibullah Zazi’s plot to bomb the NYC subway.

        We first learned of these three people when they appeared in the detention motion the FBI used to keep him in custody in Brooklyn. As part of the proof offered that Zazi was a real threat, FBI described 3 people in Aurora, CO, who bought large amounts of beauty supplies.

        Evidence that “individuals associated with Zazi purchased unusual quantities of hydrogen and acetone products in July, August, and September 2009 from three different beauty supply stores in and around Aurora;” these purchases include:
        Person one: a one-gallon container of a product containing 20% hydrogen peroxide and an 8-oz bottle of acetone
        Person two: an acetone product
        Person three: 32-oz bottles of Ion Sensitive Scalp Developer three different times

        Unlike just about everything else cited in the detention motion, there was no obvious means by which these individuals were identified.

        During the debate on PATRIOT Act reauthorization later that fall, Dianne Feinstein used the Zazi investigation to insist that Section 215 retain its broad “relevant to” standard. Given her insistence Section 215 had been important to the investigation, and given that the identification of these beauty supply buying subjects appeared to work backwards from their purchase of beauty supplies, I guessed at the time that the FBI used Section 215 to cross reference all the people who had bought these beauty supplies in Aurora, CO — which are precursors for the TATP explosive Zazi made — with possible associations with Zazi.

        Just days later, as part of the debate, Ben Cardin discussed using National Security Letters to track people who buy “cleaning products that could be used to make explosive device.” And John Kyl discussed wanting to “know about Joe Blow buying hydogen peroxide.” Acetone and hydrogen peroxide, the same precursors used to implicate these three people.

        In February 2011, Robert Mueller confirmed explicitly that Section 215 had been used to collect “records relating to the purchase of hydrogen peroxide.”

        That seems to suggest that the government used Section 215 or NSLs to search on all the people who bought acetone and hydrogen peroxide in Aurora (by all public reporting, Zazi kept to himself the entire time he lived in CO).

        But here’s the thing: these three people never appeared again in the legal case against Zazi and his co-conspirators. The only one from CO ever implicated in the plot was Zazi’s father, who had lied to protect his son.


        They were three known associates buying dangerous explosives precursors one day, and apparently became either cleared innocents or recruited confidential informants the next day.

        In other words, they appear to be false positives identified by the Section 215 dragnet celebrated by Obama and DiFi and everyone else implicated in it now as a great way to prevent terrorism (Zazi, remember, was discovered through legal FISA intercepts obtained after we got a tip from Pakistan).

        (all emphasis mine)

        without the ants the rainforest dies

        by aliasalias on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 02:49:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Buttle, Tuttle, what's in a name? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        •  Judging by all the mistaken identities (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radical simplicity, KenBee

          we've heard about with the no-fly list, let's just say my confidence level is not high.

          They are also pulling in other government data into the counterterrorism center data base, for instance, like DOV data.  Some of this data (most?) is old, was entered manually by humans.  I mean, anyone who works with computer systems and data bases knows what happens to data over time.   And the enormity of the data set... they may have conquered the techonological challenges in capturing, scanning and storing it but it would be impossible to maintain the integrity of it. Nobody has solved that problem and probably never will, though a lot of devices and technology have improved the issue of accuracy of data.

          "Justice is a commodity"

          by joanneleon on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 04:12:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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