The Canary in the Data Mine

Monday, 20 January 2003, 12:46 PM EST

At the turn of the century just past, mining companies would use a brightly colored bird in the mine shaft to protect the lives of citizens. These canaries were more sensitive to the foul, noxious and deadly but invisible vapors that would otherwise threaten the lives of the mine shaft workers. When the canaries died, the miners would know an invisible threat existed.

On January 16, 2002 Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced the Data Mining Moratorium Act of 2003, legislation that would block implementation of a government program to collect and analyze massive quantities of information about ordinary citizens and non-citizens alike.

For more than a year, the Department of Defense, under the leaderships of "convicted-but-reversed" Admiral John Poindexter has been developing a new "research" effort called "Total Information Awareness" (symbol: the "eye of providence" on the Great Seal looking out and examining the entire planet.) TIA will instruct the DoD research arm DARPA to develop massive data collection and analysis capabilities to cross reference gigantic databases, and create brand new ones, including databases of conversations (voice-to-text-to-language) and the comings and goings of people (Human Identification at Distance.) It is all reminiscent of the Ministry of Information Retrieval in the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil.

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