The Wall Street Journal reports that a little known government agency now has the authority to hold and monitor data on US citizens for up to five years, even if the individual has never committed a crime.
The goal, it appears, is to use the data to predict future — or potential — criminal activity.
Via the Wall Street Journal*:
[New] rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.
Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited…
The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.
Under the new rules, the NCTC can request access to any governmental database that it “reasonably believes” contains “terrorism information.”
Considering the National Security Agency is currently building a massive information center in Utah to monitor almost “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails,” the NCTC wont be want for information.
BONUS: Looking for more about government surveillance? Check the FJP Surveillance Tag.
Wall Street Journal, U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens.
* This WSJ article is paywalled if you go directly to the site. If you want to read it, copy the title, paste it in Google and follow the search result back to the WSJ.
How many mining conflicts are there in Latin America? And what about? An interactive map.
Embeddable Resources from WNYC ahead of Hurricane Sandy:
“It really is fascinating (to me at least) to start at one node and bounce along the connections to a distantly related someone else. People in philosophy influencing fantasy writers who influence comedians. It shows one thing above all: the evolution of ideas is a non-linear process. We too, are somewhere in this web, albeit at a smaller scale. We too, are the sum of many.”
How Africa Tweets – Portland and Tweetminster analyzed more than 11.5 million geo-located tweets sent across Africa during the last three months of 2011. Here’s what they found.
Graphing the Influence of Thinkers and Ideas Throughout History
Brendan Griffen has graphed a network of all people on Wikipedia with who they’ve influenced and who they’re influenced by.
Via Griff’s Graphs:
For those new to this type of thing: the node size represents the number of connections. In short, I used a database version of Wikipedia to extract all people with known influences and made this map. The bigger the node, the bigger influence that person had on the rest of the network. Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Kafka, and Lovecraft all, as one would expect, appear as the largest nodes. Around these nodes, cluster other personalities who are affiliated (depends on distance). Highlighting communities by colour reveals sub-networks within the total structure. You’ll notice common themes amongst similarly coloured authors.
Griffen’s influence is Simon Raper who recently graphed the history of philosophy.
The tools used are similar too:
First I queried Snorql and retrieved every person who had a registered ‘influence’ or registered ‘influenced by’ value (restricted to people only so if they were influenced by ‘anime’, they were excluded).
I then decoded these using a neat little URL decoder and imported them into Microsoft Excel for further processing (removing things like ‘(Musician)’ and other annoying syntax).
I then exported these as a csv and imported into Gephi and proceeded as usual. Fruchterman-Reingold algorithm followed by Force Atlas 2. I then identified communities using ‘Modularity’ and edited the rest in Preview. Due to the size, I’ve had to zoom up and take snapshots on regions of interest.
The csv file containing all of the data can be obtained here so you can make your own maps.
And yes, as Griffen notes, the information and visualization is biased towards Western ideas and cultures since Wikipedia skews heavily toward English speakers.
Meantime, we’re absolutely gobsmacked.
Images: Partial screenshots of Graphing Every* Idea in History, by Brendan Griffen. Select to embiggen.
H/T: Flowing Data.