This issue started out in Congress as the "Data Mining Moratorium Act" a few years ago but has now taken the turned into the Federal Agency Data Mining Reporting Act of 2007 that was introduced on Jan 10, by Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wisc) and John Sununu (R-NH).
In essence, it requires the Federal agencies to report to Congress on their data mining activities. According to the text of the bill "the controversial data analysis technology known as data mining"
can be used to dig deep into the records of fellow Americans using the public and private data. Recently, the phone data mining hit the new headlines.
The Bill acknowledges the success of data mining on the commercial front in the Finance industry such as "to identify people committing fraud." However, the Bill questions the potential of data mining for counter terrorism. This is not because the algorithmic suitability is in question but more so because we do not have enough history of such activities to train the data mining models. The cases of terrorism create a rare case scenario, just like the issue of training machines to predict or detect cancer poses.
It also seems that the regional Law Enforcement Agencies (such as the Sheriff's Offices, Police Departments) will not be impacted as it states that the Federal Agencies are required to report on their data mining activites to the Congress. The law requires reporting of the,
"thorough description of the data mining technology that is being used or will be used, including the basis for determining whether a particular pattern or anomaly is indicative of terrorist or criminal activity."
The down side of this law is that criminals will get more public information on what data mining based counter terrorism measures are being used to foil their attempts.
Shyam Varan Nath
(Thanks to Dr Colleen McCue for sending me this link)