The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives might not be allowed to create a federal database of firearm owners because of federal restrictions, so they are aiming for the next best thing. They want a massive federal database that tracks who your friends are.
Intended as part of the Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information, this “massive online data repository system” will allow the ATF to “find connection points between two or more individuals” by linking together “structured and unstructured data.”
The ATF hopes that this database will make it a lot easier to track down criminals. Investigators simply have to feed the database a few scraps of information, such as parts of a phone number, the neighborhood where investigators believe a person lives and his or her ethnicity. Out pops the suspect’s name, along with additional data about how the suspect is buddies with the guy who lives across the street.
This sounds kind of crazy, but to be honest this is the type of work that investigators do anyway. If somebody is suspected of a crime, investigators have to track down everything they can about the suspect, including information about the suspect’s friends and family. This database would just speed things along.
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A document released by the ATF stated that many investigations are performed manually, which entails hunting through multiple databases, making phone calls and driving to witnesses’ homes in order to ask questions. Time-consuming investigations results “in longer turnaround times on important information and intelligence research and analysis requests.”
It all looks good on paper, even if it does make people feel squeamish over right to privacy issues.
Do you think that this database is a breach in privacy? Or are people getting worried about information that’s already readily available on Facebook?