, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 529–544 | Cite as

Would you mind being watched by machines? Privacy concerns in data mining

  • Vincent C. Müller
Open Forum


Data mining is not an invasion of privacy because access to data is only by machines, not by people: this is the argument that is investigated here. The current importance of this problem is developed in a case study of data mining in the USA for counterterrorism and other surveillance purposes. After a clarification of the relevant nature of privacy, it is argued that access by machines cannot warrant the access to further information, since the analysis will have to be made either by humans or by machines that understand. It concludes that the current data mining violates the right to privacy and should be subject to the standard legal constraints for access to private information by people.


Data Mining Credit Card Road Toll Innocent People National Security Agency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The writing of this paper was carried out mainly during a Stanley J. Seeger Fellowship in Research at Princeton University. I am very grateful for this excellent opportunity. A first version of the paper, entitled “If You Had Nothing to Hide, Would You Still Mind Being Watched by Machines?” was presented at the workshop “Privacy: intercultural perspectives” at ZiF, Bielefeld University, in February 2006. I thank Karsten Weber for the invitation and all participants for the very stimulating discussions at that pleasant meeting. I also thank Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic for the very useful written comments.


  1. 9/11 Commission (2004) The final report of the National Commission on terrorist attacks upon the United States. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander RG (2006) Carnivore personal edition: exploring distributed data surveillance. AI Soc 20(4):483–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Armour T (2002) Genoa II and total information awareness. 2002 DARPATECH symposium “Transforming fantasy” Accessed 1 April 2007
  4. Bailey D (2004) The open society paradox: why the twenty-first century calls for more openness, not less. Brasseys, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  5. Crane T (2003) The mechanical mind: a philosophical introduction to minds, machines and mental representation. 2nd edn. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. DARPA (2003) fact file: a compendium of DARPA programs. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Accessed 1 April 2007
  7. DeRosa M (2004) Data mining and data analysis for counterterrorism. CSIS, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  8. Etzioni A (1999) The limits of privacy. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Fried C (2005) The case for surveillance. The Boston Globe. = PF. Accessed 1 April 2007
  10. Hayden MV (2002) Statement for the record by Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden, USAF, Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service, before the joint inquiry of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence” 17 October 2002.∼nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB24/nsa27.pdf. Accessed 1 April 2007
  11. HEW (1973) Records, computers, and the rights of citizens. US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, report of the secretary’s advisory committee on automated personal data systems. Accessed 1 April 2007
  12. IAO (2003) Report to congress regarding the Terrorism Information Awareness Program. Information Awareness Office (Department of Defense). Accessed 1 April 2007
  13. IEEE (2003) Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference on advanced video and signal based surveillance. AVSS 2003, 21–22 July 2003 Accessed 1 April 2007)
  14. Kargupta H, Joshi A, Sivakumar K, Yesha Y (Eds) (2004) Data mining: next generation challenges and future directions. MIT, BostonGoogle Scholar
  15. Keenan K (2005) Invasion of privacy: a reference handbook. ABC-CLIO, Santa BarbaraGoogle Scholar
  16. Lyman P, Varian HR (2003) How much information?–2003. Accessed 1 April 2007
  17. Markle Foundation (2002) Protecting America’s freedom in the information age: a report of the Markle Foundation task force. Accessed 1 April 2007
  18. Markle Foundation (2003) Creating a trusted network for homeland security: a report of the Markle Foundation task force. Accessed 1 April 2007
  19. National security archive (2005).∼nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB24/index.htm. Accessed 1 April 2007
  20. O’Harrow R (2005) No place to hide: behind the scenes of our emerging surveillance society. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Pincus W, Eggen D (2006, A01) 325,000 Names on terrorism list: rights groups say database may include innocent people. The Washington Post. Accessed 1 April 2007
  22. Poindexter J (2002) Information Awareness Office overview. Introductory statement to the 2002 DARPATECH symposium. Accessed 1 April 2007
  23. Preston J, Bishop M (Eds.) (2002) Views into the Chinese room: new essays on Searle and artificial intelligence. Oxford University Press, OxfordzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  24. Rosenberg RA (ed) (2004) The social impact of computers (3rd edn.). Elsevier, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  25. Searle JR (1980) Minds, brains and programs. Behav Brain Sci 3:417–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Taipale KA (2003) Data mining and domestic security: connecting the dots to make sense of data. Columbia Sci Technol Law Rev V 2003–2004:1–83Google Scholar
  27. TAPAC (2004) Safeguarding privacy in the fight against terrorism. Report of the Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee to the Department of Defense, 1 March 2004. Accessed 1 April 2007)
  28. US Congress (2002) Privacy vs. security: electronic surveillance in the nation’s capital. Hearing before the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, Committee on Government Reform, Washington DC, 22 March 2002. Accessed 1 April 2007
  29. Vaidya J, Clifton CW, Zhu YM (2005) Privacy preserving data mining. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Humanities and Social SciencesAmerican College of ThessalonikiPylaiaGreece

Personalised recommendations