Government Data Mining


23 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2008

See all articles by Fred H. Cate

Fred H. Cate

Indiana University; Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Newton Minow

Sidley Austin LLP

Date Written: July 8, 2008


Government data mining is widespread and expanding. A 2004 report by the General Accounting Office found 42 federal departments - including every cabinet-level agency that responded to the GAO's survey - engaged in, or were planning to engage in, 122 data mining efforts involving personal information. Thirty-six of those involve accessing data from the private sector; 46 involve sharing data among federal agencies.

These programs present vexing legal and policy issues about the government's access to, and use of, personal information, especially when that information is obtained from the private sector or another government agency or when it concerns individuals who have done nothing to warrant suspicion. Surprisingly, many of these issues have not yet been addressed by statutes or judicial decisions, or the applicable law is uncertain or unclear.

This paper examines the technological and geopolitical factors that have raised - and complicated - this question, and helped to render existing law inadequate. It describes that law and the legal and other issues posed by data mining, but not resolved by existing law. The paper includes a summary of the recommendations of the DOD Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee - the most recent word on the subject - which are currently under consideration by Congress and the Secretary of Defense.

Keywords: data mining, national security, privacy, Fourth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Cate, Fred H. and Minow, Newton, Government Data Mining (July 8, 2008). MCGRAW-HILL HANDBOOK OF HOMELAND SECURITY, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Fred H. Cate (Contact Author)

Indiana University ( email )

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
8128551161 (Phone)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Newton Minow

Sidley Austin LLP ( email )

One First National Plaza
Chicago, IL 60603
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics