Total Information Awareness at UT

Information Awareness Seal

DARPA's Information Awareness Office describes its mission as "creating technologies that would permit us have both security and privacy." The office's Total Information Awareness project has also been termed "one of the most ambitious and far-reaching surveillance programs ever proposed." The project intends to combine several software programs to create a database of information about people capable of identifying which of them are terrorists. Ideally, TIA could predict terrorist attacks by interpreting clues that are usually only identified after the attacks occur. TIA will also try to predict wars in the future (Rapid Analytical Wargaming, or RAW--shades of WWF).

Critics call TIA a "recipe for civil liberties disaster." The Electronic Frontier Foundation blasted the program for eroding privacy rights and lacking accountability. (EFF's critique of DARPA's May 20 defense of TIA before Congress is recommended). Congress was even worried; January 2003 legislation called for a halt in funding for the program until its effects on the protection of privacy could be studied. Some senators have called for a moratorium on TIA or at least clearer limits. In May TIA was renamed Terrorism Information Awarenss, presumably because the program will only target bonafide terrorists.

Researchers at UT Austin, Dallas, and Arlington are designing components of TIA. UT Arlington's SUBDUE "substructure discovery system" is available online. Since the technology required for TIA to work doesn't currently exist, DARPA has contracted out parts of it to research institutions.