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MIT Technology Review

Surveillance with Privacy

Programs would sift private data while protecting names.

September 1, 2003

There’s been plenty of public debate about allowing the government to seek patterns in disparate databases-to “connect the dots”-to thwart terror attacks. One problem for investigators is that many of these databases, which store information such as private phone records and credit card statements, are closed to routine government scrutiny. The Information Awareness Office at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is attempting to demonstrate that private databases can safely be plumbed if the day comes when privacy laws are changed to allow access to them (see “Total Information Overload,” TR July/August 2003). If one DARPA-funded project at the Palo Alto Research Center in California is successful, it could result in technology that lets government intelligence analysts find patterns in data while forbidding access to details about individuals.