Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why data retention is a bad idea

I recently posted over at the Law Librarian Blog about data retention proposals in Congress aimed at securing our children from online predators. Now, I read that fearless Attorney General Gonzalez is telling us that we also need a data retention law to protect us from terrorists. This is the same rationale that succeeded in getting the EU to adopt a data retention law, but it's equally imbecilic here in the States.

The problem is not data, the problem is analysis. We are drowning in a sea of data. And the cost/benefit analysis of these proposals is wacky. Who is going to pay the huge costs of warehousing all of this data (most of which is totally innocuous)? You and I are. Whether the ISPs are forced to pay for it or the government picks up the tab, ultimately it will come out of our pocketbooks.

Data retention will never prevent an attack. Data retention merely makes it easier to read terrorist's email after the deed is done.

After 9/11 the FBI was able to track the terrorists' emails because the data was already stored by the ISP, we didn't need a law requiring data retention. But even with this data we weren't able to prevent the attacks because we know where to look and we didn't have the analysts to connect the dots.

I've been reading Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier and he does a good job of laying out the weaknesses with our approach to security in this country.

And this assumes that terrorists communicate by email and are part of a larger organization. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not part of any larger plot, but they were certainly domestic terrorists.

2 comments:

trp0 said...

Data retention is ridiculous. There's a TON of research being funded right now in the area of data mining because pretty much everybody knows that finding POSITIVE leads swimming through all that data is VERY....VERY, hard. Most of the time you end up with false positives. It's like those wacky dudes that think the bible is encoded and that there is a formula you can use to tell the future. Shit. Take any sufficiently large book and you're going to find something when sticking random letters and such together. Come on, people. Why don't we spend our time and effort on fixing the policies and relationships that CAUSE terrorism rather than just focusing on the symptom of terrorism itself.

Safety Neal said...

[QUOTE]Why don't we spend our time and effort on fixing the policies and relationships that CAUSE terrorism rather than just focusing on the symptom of terrorism itself.[/QUOTE]

That's an excellent question with a multi-faceted answer. Definitely fodder for another post.

PS I can't believe blogger comments don't accept HTML. Duh.