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Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 3 Jun 2003 08:13:19 -0700
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Associated Press
June 3, 2003

Pentagon To Keep Track of Your Life

by Michael Sniffen

WASHINGTON - A Pentagon project to develop a digital super diary that
records heartbeats, travel, Internet chats, everything a person does,
also could provide private companies with powerful software to
analyze behavior.

That has privacy experts worried.

Known as LifeLog, the project aims to capture and analyze a
multimedia record of everywhere a subject goes and everything he or
she sees, hears, reads, says and touches. The Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has solicited bids and hopes to
award four 18-month contracts beginning this summer.

DARPA's research has changed lives far beyond the U.S. military
before; it developed what became the Internet and the global
positioning satellite system. The LifeLog research is unclassified,
so its components could eventually be used in the private sector.

DARPA is also developing new anti-terrorism tools but says LifeLog is
not among them.

Rather, the agency calls it a tool to capture "one person's
experience in and interactions with the world" through a camera,
microphone and sensors worn by the user.

More importantly, LifeLog's goal is to create breakthrough software
that "will be able to find meaningful patterns in the timetable, to
infer the user's routines, habits and relationships with other
people, organizations, places and objects," according to Pentagon
documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

DARPA's Jan Walker said LifeLog is intended for those who agree to be
monitored. It could enhance the memory of military commanders and
improve computerized military training by chronicling how users learn
and then tailoring training accordingly, officials said.

But defense analyst John Pike of Global is dubious about
the project's military application.

"I have a much easier time understanding how Big Brother would want
this than how (Defense Secretary Donald H.) Rumsfeld would use it,"
Pike said. "They have not identified a military application."

Steven Aftergood, a Federation of American Scientists defense
analyst, said LifeLog would collect far more information than needed
to improve a general's memory - enough "to measure human experience
on an unprecedentedly specific level."

DARPA rejects any notion LifeLog will be used for spying. "The
allegation that this technology would create a machine to spy on
others and invade people's privacy is way off the mark," Walker said.

She said LifeLog is not connected with DARPA's data-mining project,
recently renamed Terrorism Information Awareness. Each LifeLog user
could "decide when to turn the sensors on or off and who would share
the data," she added.

But James X. Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology,
which advocates online privacy, fears users ultimately won't control
LifeLog data.

"Because you collected it voluntarily, the government can get it with
a search warrant," he said. "And an increasing amount of personal
data is also available from third parties. The government can get
data from them simply by asking or signing a subpoena."

He notes that traffic and security cameras and automated tollbooth
pass records are already used by police to trace a person's path.
Dempsey questions how LifeLog's analytical software, in the hands of
other government agencies or the private sector, will interpret such
data and how Americans will be protected from errors.

"You can go to the airport to pick up a friend, to claim lost luggage
or to case it for a terrorist attack. What story will LifeLog write
from this data?" he asked. "At the very least, you ought to know when
someone is using it and have the right to correct the `story' it

Dempsey does, however, see a silver lining in the government taking the lead.

"If government weren't doing this, it would still be done by
companies and in universities all over the country, but we would have
less say about it," he said. With the government involved, "you can
read about it and influence it."

DARPA's Web site says the agency investigates ideas "the traditional
research and development community finds too outlandish or risky."
But wearable sensors similar to those envisioned for LifeLog are
already being researched by well-heeled outfits.

Professor Steve Mann of the University of Toronto has spent 30 years
developing a wearable camera and computer, progressing from intricate
metallic headgear to dark frame eyeglasses and a cellphone-sized belt
attachment. He's working with Samsung on a commercial version.

And Microsoft's Gordon Bell scans his mail and other papers and
records phone, Web, video and voice transactions into a computerized
file called MyLifeBits. The company may include the capability in
upcoming products.

Neither Mann nor Bell intends to bid on DARPA's project. Bell said
DARPA wants to go further than he has into artificial intelligence to
analyze data.

Pentagon contracting documents give a sense of the project's scope.

Cameras and microphones would capture what the user sees or hears;
sensors would record what he or she feels. Global positioning
satellite sensors would log every movement. Biomedical sensors would
monitor vital signs. E-mails, instant messages, Web-based
transactions, telephone calls and voicemails would be stored. Mail
and faxes would be scanned. Links to every radio and television
broadcast heard and every newspaper, magazine, book, Web site or
database seen would be recorded.

Breakthrough software would automatically produce an electronic diary
that organizes the data into "episodes" of the user's life, such as
"I took the 08:30 a.m. flight from Washington's Reagan National
Airport to Boston's Logan Airport," according to the documents.

Walker said DARPA has no plans to develop software to analyze
multiple LifeLogs. But DARPA advised contractors that ultimately,
with proper anonymity, data from many LifeLogs could facilitate
"early detection of an emerging epidemic."


On The Net:


Gordon Bell's Microsoft project:

Professor Steve Mann: