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Collection Methods

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Collection Methods in Government Accountability Office Reports


Data Mining: DHS Needs to Improve Executive Oversight of Systems Supporting Counterterrorism (GAO-11-742, September 2011) (75pp | 1.6m | PDF) — "Data mining — a technique for extracting useful information from large volumes of data—is one type of analysis that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to help detect and prevent terrorist threats. While data-mining systems offer a number of promising benefits, their use also raises privacy concerns….DHS faces key challenges in implementing a framework to ensure systems are effective and provide privacy protections. These include reviewing and overseeing systems once they are in operation, stabilizing and implementing acquisition policies throughout the department, and ensuring that privacy sensitive systems have timely and up-to-date privacy reviews.…Until DHS addresses these challenges, it will be limited in its ability to ensure that its systems have been adequately reviewed, are operating as intended, and are appropriately protecting individual privacy and assuring transparency to the public."

Privacy: Government Use of Data from Information Resellers Could Include Better Protections (GAO-08-543T, March 2008) (29pp | 504kb | PDF) — "In fiscal year 2005, the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State and the Social Security Administration reported that they used personal information obtained from resellers for a variety of purposes, including performing criminal investigations, locating witnesses and fugitives, researching assets held by individuals of interest, and detecting prescription drug fraud….  Agency practices for handling personal information acquired from information resellers did not always fully reflect the Fair Information Practices." 

Data Mining: Early Attention to Privacy in Developing Data Mining Programs Could Reduce Risks (GAO-07-293, February 2007) (35pp | 816kb | PDF) — "ADVISE is a data mining tool under development intended to help DHS analyze large amounts of information. It is designed to allow an analyst to search for patterns in data—such as relationships among people, organizations, and events—and to produce visual representations of these patterns, referred to as semantic graphs.… Use of the ADVISE tool raises a number of privacy concerns. DHS has added security controls to the tool; however, it has not assessed privacy risks....To ensure that privacy protections are in place, GAO is recommending that the Secretary of Homeland Security immediately conduct a privacy impact assessment of the ADVISE tool and implement privacy controls, as needed, to mitigate any identified risks." 

Data Mining: Agencies Have Taken Key Steps to Protect Privacy in Selected Efforts, but Significant Compliance Issues Remain (GAO-05-866, August 2005) (82pp | 1.35m | PDF) — "Data mining—a technique for extracting knowledge from large volumes of data—is being used increasingly by the government and by the private sector. Many federal data mining efforts involve the use of personal information, which can originate from government sources as well as private sector organizations.…While the agencies responsible for these [ ] efforts took many of the key steps required by federal law and executive branch guidance for the protection of personal information, they did not comply with all related laws and guidance.…Until agencies fully comply with these requirements, they lack assurance that individual privacy rights are being appropriately protected."

Aviation Security: Challenges in Using Biometric Technologies (GAO-04-785T, May 2004) (29pp | 245kb | PDF) — "Biometric technologies vary in complexity, capabilities, and performance, and can be used to verify or establish a person’s identity. Leading biometric technologies include facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, hand geometry, and iris recognition.… [T]hree key considerations need to be addressed before a decision is made to design, develop, and implement biometrics into a security system: 1. Decisions must be made on how the technology will be used. 2. A detailed cost-benefit analysis must be conducted to determine that the benefits gained from a system outweigh the costs. 3. A trade-off analysis must be conducted between the increased security, which the use of biometrics would provide, and the effect on areas such as privacy and convenience."


Source: Page created by the DHS/Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the DHS/Privacy Office in cooperation with the DOJ, Office of Justice Programs.