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    Two Academic Papers on Data Mining and Internet Profiling, Administrative Agencies and Privacy

    The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology has selected several papers for publication in its Law and Technology Scholarship collection. Among them are two articles of interest: “Data Mining and Internet Profiling: Emerging Regulatory and Technological Approaches” by Paul M. Schwartz, Ronald D. Lee, and Ira Rubinstein and “Privacy Decisionmaking in Administrative Agencies” by Deirdre Mulligan and Kenneth A. Bamberger.

    From the abstract of the data-mining article: 

    […] Accordingly, to identify and preempt terrorist activity, intelligence agencies have begun collecting, retaining, and analyzing voluminous and largely banal transactional information about the daily activities of hundreds of millions of people.

    Private organizations have their own reasons for gathering wide-spread information about individuals. With the expansion of internet-based services, companies can track and document a broad range of people’s online activities and can develop comprehensive profiles of these people. Advertisers and marketing firms likewise have strong incentives to identify and reach internet users whose profiles have certain demographic, purchasing behavior, or other characteristics. The construction, storage, and mining of these digital dossiers by inter-net companies pose privacy risks. Additional privacy issues arise when the government obtains this information, which it currently can with-out much legal process.

    This essay begins by examining governmental data mining; its particular focus is on pattern-based searches of databases according to a model of linkages and data patterns that are thought to indicate suspicious behavior. In Part I, this essay reviews widely held views about the necessary safeguards for the use of data mining. In Part II, this essay considers “dataveillance” by private corporations and how they have compiled rich collections of information gathered online in the absence of a robust legal framework that might help preserve online privacy.

    This essay then discusses some of the techniques that individuals can employ to mask their online activity as well as existing and emerging technological approaches to preventing the private sector or government from linking their personal information and tracing their activities. These technologies permit users to move about the world wide web pseudonymously and to adopt privacy-enhancing identity management systems. This essay concludes by briefly considering three topics: (1) whether and how to regulate the potential impact of identity management systems on counterterrorism efforts; (2) the requirements of transparency and understanding of the underlying models used in either data mining or identity management systems as a necessary prelude to the creation of rules on appropriate access and use; and (3) the need for research in several further areas.

    From the abstract of the article on administrative agencies:

    Administrative agencies increasingly rely on technology to achieve substantive goals. Often this technology is employed to collect, exchange, manipulate and store personally identifiable information, raising serious concerns about the erosion of personal privacy.

    Congress has recognized this problem. In the E-Government Act of 2002, it required administrative agencies to conduct privacy impact assessments (PIAs) when developing or procuring technology systems that handle personal information. Despite this new requirement, however, agency adherence to privacy mandates is highly inconsistent.

    In this paper, we ask why. We first explore why both process requirements and traditional means of political oversight are often weak tools for ensuring that policy reflects privacy commitments. We then consider what factors might, by contrast, promote agency consideration of privacy concerns.

    Specifically, we compare decisions by two federal agencies – the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security – to use RFID technology, which allows a wireless-access data chip to be attached to or inserted into a product, animal, or person. These two cases suggest the importance of internal agency structure, culture, and personnel, as well as alternative forms of external oversight, interest group engagement, and professional expertise, as important mechanisms for ensuring bureaucratic accountability to the secondary privacy mandate imposed by Congress.

    The analysis speaks to debates in both public administration and privacy protection. It implicates disputes over the efficacy of external controls on bureaucracy, and the less-developed literature on opening the black box of administrative decisionmaking. It further offers insight into pre-conditions necessary to advance privacy commitments in the face of social and bureaucratic pressure to manage risk by collecting information about individuals. Finally, it offers specific proposals for policy reform intended to promote agency accountability to privacy goals.

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