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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Data Mining and Homeland Security

Data Mining and Homeland Security
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Author(s): Jeffrey W. Seifert (Congressional Research Service, USA)
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 9
Source title: Electronic Government: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko (University of Tampere, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-947-2.ch098


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A significant amount of attention appears to be focusing on how to better collect, analyze, and disseminate information. In doing so, technology is commonly and increasingly looked upon as both a tool, and, in some cases, a substitute, for human resources. One such technology that is playing a prominent role in homeland security initiatives is data mining. Similar to the concept of homeland security, while data mining is widely mentioned in a growing number of bills, laws, reports, and other policy documents, an agreed upon definition or conceptualization of data mining appears to be generally lacking within the policy community (Relyea, 2002). While data mining initiatives are usually purported to provide insightful, carefully constructed analysis, at various times data mining itself is alternatively described as a technology, a process, and/or a productivity tool. In other words, data mining, or factual data analysis, or predictive analytics, as it also is sometimes referred to, means different things to different people. Regardless of which definition one prefers, a common theme is the ability to collect and combine, virtually if not physically, multiple data sources, for the purposes of analyzing the actions of individuals. In other words, there is an implicit belief in the power of information, suggesting a continuing trend in the growth of “dataveillance,” or the monitoring and collection of the data trails left by a person’s activities (Clarke, 1988). More importantly, it is clear that there are high expectations for data mining, or factual data analysis, being an effective tool. Data mining is not a new technology but its use is growing significantly in both the private and public sectors. Industries such as banking, insurance, medicine, and retailing commonly use data mining to reduce costs, enhance research, and increase sales. In the public sector, data mining applications initially were used as a means to detect fraud and waste, but have grown to also be used for purposes such as measuring and improving program performance. While not completely without controversy, these types of data mining applications have gained greater acceptance. However, some national defense/homeland security data mining applications represent a significant expansion in the quantity and scope of data to be analyzed. Moreover, due to their security-related nature, the details of these initiatives (e.g., data sources, analytical techniques, access and retention practices, etc.) are usually less transparent.

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