[Air-l] back to 1984

Barry Wellman wellman at chass.utoronto.ca
Wed Oct 4 16:07:00 PDT 2006

In the old days (1984), we used to call this "thought crime".

And what is a reputable university like Cornell doing with such stuff?

Might put out of a job some US national security folks I met recently
whose task it is to listen to TV, read papers from the -stans (Kazakhstan,

 Barry Wellman

  wellman at chass.utoronto.ca  http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
        for fun: http://chass.utoronto.ca/oldnew/cybertimes.php

"Software Being Developed to Monitor Opinions of U.S."
New York Times (10/04/06) P. A24; Lipton, Eric

The Department of Homeland Security is funding the development of
"sentiment analysis" software by a consortium of major universities that
uses natural language processing technology to scan foreign publications
for negative views on America and its government.  The goal of the
three-year, $2.4 million grant is to help DHS locate possible dangers to
the U.S.  The software would provide Homeland Security personnel with
instant access to an entire article that contains subversive statements.
While efforts have always been made to stay abreast of global opinions of
our country, this new technology will make the process far more efficient.
Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of
Utah are working on the research, which is led by Joe Kielman, who says it
could take several years to get the system in place.  He says, "We want to
understand the rhetoric that is being published and how intense it is,
such as the difference between dislike and excoriate."  Kielman noted that
they are not monitoring U.S.-based news sources.  Currently, the system is
being fed hundreds of articles published between 2001 and 2002 from a
variety of publications and tested on its ability to discern between
similar statements.  The task of classifying and ranking opinions
expressed about America without error has proven quite challenging, says
Cornell computer science professor Claire T. Cardie and University of
Pittsburgh computer science professor Janyce M. Wiebe.  Electronic Privacy
Information Center executive director Marc Rotenberg calls the research
"really chilling,"  and compares it to the Defense Department's aborted
Total Information Awareness project.  He says the research "seems far
afield from the mission of homeland security."


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