Homeland Watch: In brief

Errors cloud data mining

Data mining's high error rate makes it wrong for fighting terrorism, according to a new report.

The report by Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, and Jeff Jonas, chief scientist with IBM Corp.'s Entity Analytic Solutions Group, said that data mining results in false positive rates of more than 90 percent. The error rate cannot be reduced substantially, they said, because the underlying analysis depends on the existence of terrorism patterns. These are nearly impossible to discern, because such a small amount of data is available.

"The statistical likelihood of false positives is so high that predictive data mining will inevitably waste resources and threaten civil liberties," they wrote.

Roam Secure forges connection

Roam Secure Inc., an automated, emergency-alert text messaging company in Arlington, Va., has set up a national network to connect its systems in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington and six states. The network allows officials to publish, receive and share information, the company said.

"Many standalone alerting systems typically require manual intervention," Roam Secure CEO David Drescher said in a statement. "Roam Secure Information Exchange automates the process, filters the information and delivers it to the intended audience."

What makes a first responder?

Dispatchers and 911 operators should be considered first responders, Comcare, an alliance of agencies and industry executives involved in emergency communications, said last week.

The alliance wrote comments to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's Emergency Response Electronic Health Record Use Case, which describes the role of electronic health records during emergencies.

The debate over whether to consider 911 operators first responders hinges on that argument, because "they are not on scene, but their direction to those at the scene does constitute treatment," Bob Oenning, E911 administrator for the Washington State Emergency Management Division, said in a statement. ? Alice Lipowicz

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