Clinton sets up group to find how to pinpoint illegal Internet activity

President Clinton on Wednesday set up a working group that will be made up of federal managers to study unlawful conduct on the Internet.

Clinton issued an executive order calling for agencies to set up the working group, which will be responsible for issuing a report and offering recommendations on how to use existing laws and technology to aid in the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal acts conducted over the Internet.

As an example, the executive order refers to the illegal sale of guns, explosives, controlled substances, fraud and the issuance of child pornography over the Internet.

Daniel Boyle, SAS Institute Inc.'s director for the Defense Department and intelligence, said that the working group likely will consider ways of using data mining to deal with online criminal activity. SAS, based in Cary, N.C., is a major supplier of custom software to the federal government.

With the daily tidal wave of data coursing through the Internet every day, it would be impossible to successfully wade through it and pinpoint criminal activity just through pointing and clicking, Boyle said.

Data mining software tools should be used that sift through the data in search of anomalies or patterns—"things that don't look quite right," Boyle said. "They've got to find them first, and one of the techniques is data mining."

Ari Schwartz, a policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology, cautioned that working group members need to keep privacy concerns in mind when they drafts their report, which is due in December.

"This discussion could lead to a whole new set of monitoring tools," he said. "We hope this doesn't change the way people surf the Net. We don't want to have people think government is monitoring their lives."

The government already is considering a plan to monitor many non-DOD computers for signs of intrusion. In its quest to protect government computers from outside attacks, the proposed Federal Intrusion Detection Network unnecessarily sacrifices privacy, the Center for Democracy and Technology has said.

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Who will sit on the working group?

*Attorney General Janet Reno, chairwoman

*Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew

*Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers

*Commerce Secretary William Daley

*Education Secretary Richard Riley

*Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh

*Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, John Magaw

*Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thomas Constantine

*Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Robert Pitofsky

*Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Jane Henney

*Other federal officials deemed appropriate

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