News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Why the NSA is Just Plain Stupid...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why the NSA is Just Plain Stupid...

There's an interesting article at Wired.com that explains why any eavedropping programs that the NSA might have are simply pissing money to the wind. Not only do they waste huge monetary resources and man-hours, they also don't work. So, I guess this means that we've given away our money and our freedom to some geek who wants to try out his most recent science project. ...

According to teh Wired article:

Data mining can work. It helps Visa keep the costs of fraud down, just as it helps Amazon alert me to books I might want to buy and Google show me advertising I'm more likely to be interested in. But these are all instances where the cost of false positives is low (a phone call from a Visa operator or an uninteresting ad) in systems that have value even if there is a high number of false negatives.

Finding terrorism plots is not a problem that lends itself to data mining. It's a needle-in-a-haystack problem, and throwing more hay on the pile doesn't make that problem any easier. We'd be far better off putting people in charge of investigating potential plots and letting them direct the computers, instead of putting the computers in charge and letting them decide who should be investigated.
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1 comment:

CeesB said...

Not completely true.
The Admiral in charge of NSA, some years ago, reported during a Congressional hearing that they had learned Airbus was bribing employees of customers to buy their planes.
Not sure he was listening in on a local (which they did then already, as we recently learned) or overseas call!
Of course they were not really after Airbus, but just overheard :).