Paying Off Your Credit Card Is Letting The Terrorists Win
from the homeland-security dept
Recently, a Texas couple learned that making a large credit card payment would trigger the alarm bells at Homeland Security, which scans transactions looking for unusual activity. Eventually, because the couple weren't terrorists, the matter was cleared up. Bruce Schneier has a compelling column on why data mining, which works well for discovering credit card fraud, doesn't work for anticipating terrorism. Credit card fraudsters work in very consistent patterns, and verifying a case is as simple as making a phone call. It's not so easy to just call up a potential terrorist and ask whether they've recently commited wire fraud to obtain a dirty bomb. Data mining leads to the same problems that allowed 9/11 to happen -- so many red flags pop up, security forces can't know what's worth responding to. As anyone who reads a lot of blogs knows, simply adding more to the list isn't a good way to get information. Not only is separating noise from signal a problem, it's easy to confuse noise for signal, and go on bad information. Considering the time wasted sifting through data, trying to find what's good, and developing aggregators that give the appearance of relevancy, it's worrisome that Homeland Security is using a similar approach.