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back to article DARPA calls Big Data boffins: Help us lock up everyone's privates

The American military is looking for number-crunching wizards able to tackle the national security threat posed by, erm... publicly available data. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is searching for boffins to "measure the national security impact of public data and to defend against the malicious use of …

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Anonymous Coward

So to summarize, the government thinks publicly available information is a threat.

If you like free speech, better start protesting now, cuz its being taken away from you if you don't.

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Silver badge

Simples

Make it so that people can have anonymous vested identities. Make it impossible through a combination of legislation and technical means for anyone to assemble a database of personal information that the subjects have not (with *real informed consent*) opted *into*.

Set expiry times by default on personal data so that unless there is an ongoing relationship and another opt-in, the data melts away.

Make it impossible for third parties to access or tamper with data:

Example:

Party A Creates Customer Name/VotingKey list

Customer gets VotingKey

Party B gets list of VotingKeys

Party B Creates Ballot/VotingKey list

Voter uses VotingKey to obtain and register Ballot.

Party A knows the customer had the right to vote, but not what they voted.

Party B knows what the customer voted, but not who they are.

Party B publishes votes and keys so that voter can check that their vote is counted as cast. Public can verify there are no more ballots than their should be.

The system is open to third-party audits without revealing how people voted.

To the extent that there is a vulnerability to collusion you just use the same principle to extend to more parties, including the entire population if it comes to it. If everybody is required to release the information

There are a wide variety of ways to partition data so that only the legitimate subject has control. The problem is twofold:

Most, including politicians and even technical people do not understand this stuff. More people who can understand need to skill up.

Those who *do* understand have vested interests in the status quo.

The technical ability is there in spades. This is entirely a matter of political will.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simples

Ah, clearly a definition of the word 'simple' that has previously eluded me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simples

The problem is that the customer gets the voting key and, later, "Party B publishes votes and keys so that voter can check that their vote is counted as cast" That means it is no longer a secret and anonymous ballot because the voter can prove which way they voted. That makes voters open to pressure and allows them to sell their votes. A genuinely free vote depends on people NOT being able to prove how they voted.

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Gold badge

If you can defend your own datasets you can attack those of other people. And that's why DARPA cares.

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"apparent lack of joined-up thinking"

I'm not so sure of that. As the article says, the NSA already has a handle on how to use big data, seeing as the PRISM surveillance programme managed to collect the details of millions of people every day, but that isn't the same as being able to do anything with it.

It strikes me that the data boffins, in doing what DARPA wants, will devise ways to maximise the usefulness of the data they play with, and I'm sure the NSA could feed off that.

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Go

How about a robots.txt file?

Sorted! Where's my huge DARPA contract payout??

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WTF?

Re: How about a robots.txt file?

I was the one who suggested that Terrorists use Apple Maps. No cutting the huge payout line.

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I watched "Oranges are not the only fruit"

Does this mean that I'm a closeted lesbian?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I watched "Oranges are not the only fruit"

If you are wearing Birkenstocks, then yes. Yes, you are.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: I watched "Oranges are not the only fruit"

"Does this mean that I'm a closeted lesbian?"

Before I answer, are you in a closet ?

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BOZOS to DARPA

Just pull the plug on the internet - instant security.

You're welcome.

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Paranoia sets in

Took a look at the referenced document.

We know that the NSA has assembled massive amounts of data and they even admit to having all the metatdata.

Big Brother has all the raw data.

Big Brother knows how to decrypt things using Rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

Big Brother only needs a little help in the subtleties of how to mine their data.

They *say* they are assessing vulnerabilities in large bodies of data, but they want awfully specific functioning tools to attack the data themselves as a proof of vulnerability.

From the referenced document:

"The goal of this topic is to develop tools to characterize and assess the nature, persistence, and quality of data. ... Also of interest are tools to characterize the quality of data for automated processing and analysis (i.e., a measure of how much manpower would be required to use a specific source). ... Additionally, the goal of this topic is to characterize the threat through the creation of tools, techniques, and methodologies to measure the vulnerabilities in a given set of public data. As an example, reconstructing the profile of an organization from many data pieces using low computational-complexity methods might indicate vulnerability. "

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This actually makes a lot of sense.

One of the purported interesting use cases of big data it to do exactly what is being talked about here, to draw inferences, to make meaningful generalisations, for distinct ideas to emerge out of the sea of data.

That someone could learn interesting things about a government or a nation from the data it outputs (e.g. census, taxation, infrastructure, energy, financial etc) is one of the logical consequences of the data being available.

That someone with wicked intent might find out something useful from it is not just *possible*, it is pretty inevitable. *How* useful, well ... dunno.

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Terminator

Lay down your life for another

When the Gestapo come to your house and ask you to denounce the "traitors" that live in your neighbourhood you have a choice.

Squeal or die.

Choose die and you will not regret it. Even if they threaten to kill your children in front of you.

For this is the ultimate test of faith.

Satan can kill your body but only God has the power to destroy your soul..

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Re: Lay down your life for another

Leaving imaginary beings out of it, I sort of agree with you. The trouble is, I doubt the (putatative) powers of totalitarianism will be so crude as to mere kill these days. There are ways of hurting that don't kill, and leave all involved ruined. I won't go into detail - I doubt I need to.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Choose die and you will not regret it

because, well, you'll be dead, and therefore not in a position to do very much at all.

Unless all those zombie movies are real, of course. :-)

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Coat

A little nip here, a bit of a tuck there, and ...

Finally, DARPA wants to design a real-world tool that can monitor open source data sets in real time, measure vulnerabilities and then provide defensive countermeasures exploit those vulnerabilities to supplement the data acquisition capabilities of the NSA through its PRISM and XKeyScore programs.

There...fixed it for ya.

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Facepalm

Help us spy on you

Right now researchers are working on ways to anonymize data. DARPA wants to be sure they can de-anonymize the data, and what better way than to have an inside line on how it will be anonymized in the first place.

Also plenty of big data has been available for years, but until now, was not seen as a danger. Phone books, mailing lists, census data, auto and license lists, and on and on. It isn't the data that has them worried, it is the anonymizing.

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Anonymous Coward

oh goody

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Big Brother

DARPA calls Big Data boffins: Help us lock up everyone

I've shortened your title a bit - sums up our governments' attitude nicely...

Was going to use the joke icon, but it's not is it?

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Where is Winston Smith when you need him?

Winston and his colleagues can be employed usefully re-writing all Public Big Data to ensure it can only be used in ways useful to Big Br.... er The US Government if all dat is vetted and suitably amended it will be safe!

The Ministry of Truth has my vote!

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Wait a minute

I see all these posts about how DARPA is going to use any of this new tech to better get the squeeze on our privacy, and I understand very well where that is coming from and I blame nobody.

But let's take a step back just one second.

Look at cryptography. I've always heard that a secure cryptographic system is a system where everyone knows exactly how it works, because knowing how it works does not mean you can break it.

So, if we apply that rule to data anonymisation, I think we could very well design something where data is effectively anonymous and could not be recombined to something that would break anonymity.

I don't think it will be easy though.

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Big Brother

Turned up to 11

It seems there are no bounds to an American Government's paranoia. The simplest solution would be to retire IPv4 and replace every American's audio and visual senses with IPv6 addressable devices and feed them with government clensed data - no need for special algorithms.

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Re: Turned up to 11

Scary idea. I think the design for suitable headgear is already available - see the Robomen in the second Dr Who film (Daleks' Invasion Earth).

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Facepalm

2001 called, it wants its panic back

I remember of "helpful librarians" getting up and shredding CDs in the library in a panic (no backups made either) to thwart the evil terrorists using the dangerous datasets.

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You don't think the US government has finally twigged that Google controls access to a lot of their own data, do you?

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