Tool To Monitor Your Life |
|Monday June 02, 2003 3:02pm
(AP) - Coming to you soon from the
Pentagon: the diary to end all diaries - a multimedia, digital
record of everywhere you go and everything you see, hear,
read, say and touch.
LifeLog, the project has been put out for contractor bids by
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the
agency that helped build the Internet and that is now
developing the next generation of anti-terrorism tools.
The agency doesn't consider LifeLog an
anti-terrorism system, but rather a tool to capture "one
person's experience in and interactions with the world"
through a camera, microphone and sensors worn by the user.
Everything from heartbeats to travel to Internet chatting
would be recorded.
The goal is
to create breakthrough software that helps analyze behavior,
habits and routines, according to Pentagon documents reviewed
by The Associated Press. The products of the unclassified
project would be available to both the private sector and
other government agencies - a concern to privacy advocates.
DARPA's Jan Walker said LifeLog
is intended for users who give their consent to be monitored.
It could enhance the memory of military commanders and improve
computerized military training by chronicling how users learn
and then tailoring training accordingly, officials said.
But John Pike of Global Security.org,
a defense analysis group, is dubious the project has military
"I have a much
easier time understanding how Big Brother would want this than
how (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld would use it," Pike
said. "They have not identified a military application."
Steven Aftergood, a Federation of
American Scientists defense analyst, said LifeLog would
collect far more information than needed to improve a
general's memory - enough "to measure human experience on an
unprecedentedly specific level." And that, privacy experts
say, raises powerful concerns.
DARPA rejects any notion LifeLog will
be used for spying. "The allegation that this technology would
create a machine to spy on others and invade people's privacy
is way off the mark," Walker said.
She said LifeLog is not connected with
DARPA's data-mining project, recently renamed Terrorism
Information Awareness. Each LifeLog user could "decide when to
turn the sensors on or off and who would share the data," she
added. "The goal ... is to `see what I see,' rather than to
One critic sees a
silver lining in the government taking the lead.
"If government weren't doing this, it
would still be done by companies and in universities all over
the country, but we would have less say about it," said James
X. Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which
advocates online privacy. Because the government is involved,
"you can read about it and influence it."
DARPA's Web site says the agency
investigates ideas "the traditional research and development
community finds too outlandish or risky."
But in LifeLog's case, some similar
technology is already being funded and researched by
Steve Mann of the University of Toronto has spent 30 years
developing a wearable camera and computer, progressing from
intricate metallic headgear to dark frame eyeglasses and a
cellphone-sized belt attachment. He's working with Samsung on
a commercial version.
Microsoft's Gordon Bell scans his mail and other papers and
records phone, Web, video and voice transactions into a
computerized file called MyLifeBits. The company may include
the capability in upcoming products.
Neither Mann nor Bell intends to bid
on DARPA's project. Bell said DARPA wants to go further than
he has into artificial intelligence to analyze data.
The Pentagon agency plans to award up
to four 18-month contracts for LifeLog beginning this summer.
Contracting documents give a sense of the project's scope.
Cameras and microphones would
capture what the user sees or hears; sensors would record what
he or she feels. Global positioning satellite sensors would
log every movement. Biomedical sensors would monitor vital
signs. E-mails, instant messages, Web-based transactions,
telephone calls and voicemails would be stored. Mail and faxes
would be scanned. Links to every radio and television
broadcast heard and every newspaper, magazine, book, Web site
or database seen would be recorded.
Breakthrough software would
automatically produce an electronic diary that organizes the
data into "episodes" of the user's life, such as "I took the
08:30 a.m. flight from Washington's Reagan National Airport to
Boston's Logan Airport," according to the documents.
LifeLog's software also "will be able
to find meaningful patterns in the timetable, to infer the
user's routines, habits and relationships with other people,
organizations, places and objects," DARPA told contractors in
Walker said DARPA
has no plans to develop software to analyze multiple LifeLogs.
But DARPA advised contractors that ultimately, with proper
anonymity, data from many LifeLogs could facilitate "early
detection of an emerging epidemic."
Dempsey, the privacy advocate, says
his concern is that users ultimately won't control LifeLog
"Because you collected it
voluntarily, the government can get it with a search warrant,"
he said. "And an increasing amount of personal data is also
available from third parties. The government can get data from
them simply by asking or signing a subpoena."
He cites examples from current
technology such as traffic cameras and automated toll booth
passes that police already use to trace a person's path.
Dempsey questions how LifeLog's analytical software will
interpret such data and how Americans will be protected from
"You can go to the
airport to pick up a friend, to claim lost luggage or to case
it for a terrorist attack. What story will LifeLog write from
this data?" he asked. "At the very least, you ought to know
when someone is using it and have the right to correct the
`story' it writes."
Copyright 2003 by The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
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