The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Sat. Nov 23, 2002

DARPA Follies

DARPA Follies – First they brought us The Poindextering of Privacy Rights, but the folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency think big: “The Pentagon research agency that is exploring how to create a vast database of electronic transactions and analyze them for potential terrorist activity considered but rejected another surveillance idea: tagging Internet data with unique personal markers to make anonymous use of some parts of the Internet impossible. The idea, which was explored at a two-day workshop in California in August, touched off an angry private dispute among computer scientists and policy experts who had been brought together to assess the implications of the technology.”

“The plan, known as eDNA, called for developing a new version of the Internet that would include enclaves where it would be impossible to be anonymous while using the network. The technology would have divided the Internet into secure ’public network highways,’ where a computer user would have needed to be identified, and ’private network alleyways,’ which would not have required identification. Several people familiar with the eDNA discussions said such secure areas might have first involved government employees or law enforcement agencies, then been extended to security-conscious organizations like financial institutions, and after that been broadened even further.”

Besides the obvious privacy argument, one must be able to clean one’s plate before requesting dessert: “ ’Before people demand more surveillance information, they should be able to process the information they already have,’ Mark Seiden, an independent computer security expert who attended the workshop, said in an interview. ’Almost all of our failures to date have come from our inability to use existing intelligence information.’ ”

Show us you can connect the dots you’ve got before asking for more. Luckily, the proposal apparently touched off a massive e-mail flame war among the scientists involved (“ ’I’ve never seen such personal attacks,’ one participant said in a subsequent telephone interview”), and someone got a clue: “ SRI spokeswoman, Alice Resnick, said yesterday, ’SRI informed Darpa that the costs and risks would outweigh any benefit.’ ”

In other words, if these scientists toasting our butts for this, imagine what we’ll get from the general public…

Peanut Gallery

Comments are closed for this article
Contact me to find out more