Homeland Security staff studies data analysis tools

Homeland Security staff studies data analysis tools

HERSHEY, Pa.'The Homeland Security Office is evaluating applications to let agencies analyze links and relationships among information sets without breaching privacy laws or sparking interagency turf battles.

Steve Cooper, the office's CIO, said yesterday the goal of the current tests is to validate a data-sharing concept. The premise is that to better track information on possible security threats, agencies must at minimum share information about their data, he said at the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference.

But fear of breaking privacy laws and the sense of ownership many agencies exhibit toward their data often keep the government from consolidating or even tracking information in useful ways, Cooper said.

The actual pooling of data might not be necessary because simply knowing what types of data agencies are gathering ought to help intelligence analysts identify information sources related to possible threats, Cooper said. Then, as the need arises, officials could obtain court orders or agencies could negotiate with one another to obtain the data, he said.

"We can create a map of what exists and where it exists using this technology," Cooper said. "The data might represent locations or people or facilities. We don't need to know what the content of the data is, but by analyzing what is interrelated to what, we can see patterns and see if it needs an additional look by intelligence analysts."

He added that the type of software his staff is reviewing could help make associations between information that might have been overlooked.

Cooper also emphasized that the term data goes beyond electronically stored information and that Homeland Security officials also want to use software tools to track paper files, intelligence tips and other information sources.

The office is looking at an assortment of government research-and-development efforts as well as industry products that could be adapted for use by homeland security workers, Cooper said. Some packages that vendors tout as data-sharing solutions at best would fulfill only part of the information tracking function envisioned by the Homeland Security Office, he said.

Cooper said he expects that the planned Homeland Security Department will earmark $1 million to launch a three- to six-month pilot to study such efforts.

"We are working with the intelligence community to start this project in a classified environment," Cooper said.


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