DARPA deflects concerns over TIA by changing name

DARPA deflects concerns over TIA by changing name

Defense Department efforts to develop a data-mining tool that would collect and correlate personal information have raised concerns about potential privacy and civil rights abuses. So the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency changed the project's name.

Total Information Awareness now is Terrorism Information Awareness.

The original name 'created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens,' DARPA officials explained in a report to Congress. 'That is not DOD's intent. DOD's purpose is to protect U.S. citizens by detecting and defeating foreign terrorist threats before an attack. To make this objective absolutely clear, DARPA has changed the program name.'

The report, issued May 20, was required under legislation giving greater congressional oversight of TIA. Much of the report addressed privacy and civil rights concerns.

'Safeguarding the privacy and the civil liberties of Americans is a bedrock principle,' the report said. 'DOD intends to make it a central element in the management and oversight of the TIA program.'

TIA is an R&D program for a prototype system that would include advanced collaborative and decision support tools; language translation; and data search, pattern recognition and privacy protection technologies. Many of the technologies do not now exist in usable forms.

'DOD's aim in TIA is to seek to make a significant leap in technology to help those working to 'connect the dots' of terrorist-related activity,' the report said.

When, by whom and if TIA would ever be used has not been determined. DARPA acknowledged that some kinds of information could be off-limits to the system.

'The strictures of current law protecting certain categories and sources of information may well constrain or, as a logistical matter, completely preclude deployment of TIA search tools with respect to such data,' the report said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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