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graphic  Jun 21, 2003
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Opinion

Big brother is watching
Department of Defense's human tracking project, LifeLog, is a privacy invasion

By Sara Foley
June 12, 2003

Opinion
Hamas killing Road Map
Legalize it

Big Brother might not be watching everything right now, but soon the Department of Defense could be. The plans the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has will go further than simply watching a suspicious citizen's actions. DARPA's new project will record and analyze everything a person sees, hears, reads, touches, says and the places they go through a digital diary system called LifeLog.

While LifeLog is still in the developmental phases, the intention of DARPA's project is to "trace the 'threads' of an individual's life" according to its Web site, www.darpa.mil. Functioning as a type of digital diary similar to the current personal digital assistants that many business executives use today, LifeLog takes modern technology a step further through a system of cameras, sensors and microphones that record and analyze everything from Internet chatting to heartbeats.

Information is then categorized and analyzed, making whoever has access to this account able to search through the database of his life to recall particular instances or memories, according to the Houston Chronicle.

DARPA, the same agency that helped in the development of the Internet and upgrades of national security, sees the new device as a way to improve the memory of military leaders and analyze behavioral habits and routines to predict future occurrences. By teaching the computers to learn by experience, the personal digital assistant will be on its way to becoming a "personal digital partner" as well as a pocketbook record of a user's entire life. The danger of this device, however, is more significant than DARPA may care to concede.

While the users of LifeLog have the choice of which conversations they want to save and discard and when to have their personal sensors on, the underlying threat is that the people they interact with are likely unaware that every word they say and every expressions on their faces are being documented. The possibility of anyone recording each interaction and experience will drive others to do the same, causing mass cases of tracking and analyzing until no conversation is truly private and nothing is completely personal.

Furthermore, while users may assume that they hold the only copy of their individual life database, the information will go to a national memory bank in the Pentagon to analyze possible national trends in illness outbreaks or or to identify possible terrorists.

Those advantages are insignificant when compared to the fact that LifeLog holds the capability to rob users of their privacy and the confidentiality of anyone they interact with. Incidents and short conversations that many would rather forget will be stored permanently, not only in everyone else's pocket, but in Washington, D.C.

DARPA already has plans to trace "transactional data" in the form of who e-mails are sent to and where purchases are made, under the Total Information Awareness database project, according to GlobalSecurity.org. If that isn't intrusive enough for the Department of Defense, it wants to take it even further.

This kind of personal information is not necessary for the government to obtain, and it is ridiculous for even the busiest of CEOs to record on a daily basis. Aside from the usage of a digital scrapbook, this system is useless and current technology can perform what little service this device will provide. The elimination of this project would not only save the American people a reported $7.3 million in research contracts, according to the Chronicle, but something no American can put a price tag on -- his freedom.

 end of article dingbat

Big brother is watching
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