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Medill Privacy in an Age of Security

Northwestern University's News21 fellows look at America's new system of surveillance, developed by the government with the help of private data mining firms after 9/11. One story reports on how the Social Security Administration's massive databases are being used in homeland security investigations; another uncovers new details about a secretive program in which the Department of Education shared personal information on hundreds of student loan applicants with the FBI. Two immersive interactive presentations explore the digital trails we leave behind in our daily lives and government data-mining initiatives that might incorporate information about you.

About Data Dilemma

By Brian Dennis, August 17, 2006

Since Jan. 7, 2006, Medill's News21 fellows have researched and reported on how the federal government's anti-terrorism efforts have affected privacy and civil liberties, delving into dozens and dozens of programs across all the agencies to provide an extensive look at what information is being collected about people, how it is being used and what its privacy protections are.

The 11 fellows - 10 from the Medill School of Journalism's graduate program and one from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government - and four contributors used Freedom of Information requests, intense scrutiny of public documents, extensive interviews around the country of current and former government officials, computer-assisted analysis of huge databases of federal prosecution information and interviews with experts, privacy advocates and citizens in a nine-month investigative reporting project.

The information they uncovered reveals, in some cases for the first time, how the government uses data mining and what data, from both public records and private data aggregators, is studied, what the privacy rules are and whether they're followed - and outlined the digital trails we all leave in our daily lives.

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