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« Snowman and snowdog added to the KSG by PNG Team | Main | Brinton Milward on "Dark Networks as Organizational Problems" »

26 February 2006

More on NSA network analysis....

More on NSA: A piece in yesterday’s NYT provides more insight in the data analysis capacity of NSA. It confirms that the NSA is likely doing a combination of social network analysis with voice recognition to select out promising snippets for further (human) examination.

Some excerpts:

… databases [are] maintained at an AT&T data center in Kansas, which now contain electronic records of 1.92 trillion telephone calls, going back decades.

A former AT&T official who had detailed knowledge of the call-record database said the Daytona system takes great care to make certain that anyone using the database, whether AT&T employee or law enforcement official with a subpoena—sees only information he or she is authorized to see, and that an audit trail keeps track of all users. Such information is frequently used to build models of suspects’ social networks.
The official… said every telephone call generated a record: number called, time of call, duration of call, billing category, and other details…. [N]ames, addresses, credit card numbers are in a linked database….

The National Security Agency has invested billions in computerized tools for monitoring phone calls around the world—not only logging them, but also determining content—and more recently in trying to design digital vacuum cleaners to sweep up information from the Internet.

An earlier NSA patent, in 1999, focused on a software solution for generating a list of topics from computer-generated text. Such a capacity hints at the ability to extract the content of telephone conversations automatically. That might permit the agency to mine millions of phone conversations and then select a handful for human inspection.

In 2003, Virage [a company]… began supplying a voice transcriptions product that recognized and logged the text of television programming for government and commercial customers. Under perfect conditions, the system could be 95% accurate in capturing spoken text. Such technology has potential applications in monitoring phone conversations as well.

From: “Taking Snooping Further: Government Looks at Ways to Mine Databases,? by John Markoff (B1), NYT, Feb 25.

Posted by David Lazer at February 26, 2006 10:17 AM