Press Archive

SDSC Hosts Workshop on Privacy Technologies

Published 07/13/2004

BorderSafe conference examines technologies to ensure privacy of information shared across government and law enforcement agencies

Various branches of federal, state, and local government are integrating their information management systems, to increase their efficiency and interoperability and to enable law enforcement and homeland security officials to correlate data in disparate databases. But how can they fulfill their responsibilities to serve and protect the public and still guarantee that the privacy and constitutional rights of individual citizens are protected?

On June 15 and 16, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) held a workshop under the auspices of the BorderSafe project that focused on technology solutions for ensuring privacy and integrity of information in the context of sharing justice data. The workshop examined issues in designing, deploying, and using integrated data systems that are flexible and extensible enough to be useful for handling large quantities of information for periods of years or decades, but which provide technical, procedural, and legal mechanisms to maintain citizens' privacy.

"We need to let people know that when we're designing information systems to be used in law enforcement or homeland security, we're addressing the privacy technology questions up front," said Erin Kenneally, a co-organizer of the workshop. "You can't add security to a system or address privacy as an afterthought and expect legal and policy issues to be resolved."

The privacy workshop was led by Kenneally, a forensic specialist who is SDSC's acknowledged authority in the new field of cyberlaw, and by Tony Fountain, an expert in data mining and knowledge discovery who leads SDSC's Knowledge and Information Discovery Lab. Kenneally is the program director and Fountain is the co-principal investigator of the BorderSafe project, an integrated feasibility experiment funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. BorderSafe's mission is to explore technologies to enhance the data sharing and analysis capabilities of law enforcement agencies across jurisdictions for homeland security purposes.

The BorderSafe project, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, is a collaborative research effort of SDSC, the San Diego-based Automated Regional Justice Information System ( ARJIS), the University of Arizona, and various law enforcement agencies in Southern California and Arizona. It leverages data from participating agencies to develop models and testbeds for research and analysis on cross-jurisdictional data.

ARJIS is a federation of criminal justice enterprise data systems used by more than 50 local, state, and federal agencies in San Diego County, and is designed to interface withall local criminal justice systems in the region. ARJIS has become the established portalfor querying all regional justice data, and is collaborating with the National Institute of Justice ( NIJ) to build new Web-based technologies to extend support to the criminal justice community across the nation. The ARJISNet secure intranet contains text and digitized image data on crime cases, arrests, field interviews, traffic accidents, citations, gang activities,fraudulent documents, and stolen property. It also is used for tactical analysis, investigations, statistical information, and crime analysis. Officers and investigators can receive electronic notification when the system is queried by another agency or officer for information on an individual, location, or vehicle.ARJISNet encompassesmore than 2,500 network nodes; its 10,000 authorized users across San Diego County generatemore than 35,000 transactions per day.

"The BorderSafe project serves as a vehicle for exploring technologies that enable and enforce privacy controls when users correlate, manage, analyze,or visualizedatabases," said Fountain. "ARJIS has to deal with nearly all of the issues that we're concerned with."

Ed Furtek, UCSD Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations, opened the workshop. He commended the BorderSafe Project as an exemplary model for regional efforts in the Homeland Security front.

The keynote presentation was by Peter Miller, Department of Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency ( HSARPA) Program Manager, on "Framing the Privacy Technology Challenge." Miller stressed the challenge that lies ahead in balancing the need for large-scale integrated data systems while ensuring that individuals' privacy rights are safeguarded.

The event drew approximately 45 industry, government, and research leaders in privacy technologies from across the nation. Participants in the workshop presented and discussed their activities and opinions onmanaging, sharing, and safeguarding justice data.

Specific presentations included a general overview of privacy technologies in large-scale law enforcement data systems, case studies of law enforcement privacy successes and failures, and discussions of technologies for large-scale data sharing, information analysis, and information assurance and auditing. ARJIS Executive Director Pam Scanlon was an active participant in the panel discussion on technical privacy successes and failures in law enforcement.

"The goal of the workshop was to generate specific recommendations to foster built-in privacy protections when new justice-related information systems are created, and these will be published in the workshop proceedings," Kenneally said. "By designing technology solutions for justice data to be input into existing models used in investigation planning and decision-making, the credibility and influence of applied justice research will be enhanced."