The head of the government's Total Information Awareness project, which aims to root out potential terrorists by aggregating credit-card, travel, medical, school and other records of everyone in the United States, has himself become a target of personal data profiling.
Online pranksters, taking their lead from a San Francisco journalist, are publishing John Poindexter's home phone number, photos of his house and other personal information to protest the TIA program.
Matt Smith, a columnist for SF Weekly, printed the material -- which he says is all publicly available -- in a recent column: "Optimistically, I dialed John and Linda Poindexter's number -- (301) 424-6613 -- at their home at 10 Barrington Fare in Rockville, Md., hoping the good admiral and excused criminal might be able to offer some insight," Smith wrote.
"Why, for example, is their $269,700 Rockville, Md., house covered with artificial siding, according to Maryland tax records? Shouldn't a Reagan conspirator be able to afford repainting every seven years? Is the Donald Douglas Poindexter listed in Maryland sex-offender records any relation to the good admiral? What do Tom Maxwell, at 8 Barrington Fare, and James Galvin, at 12 Barrington Fare, think of their spooky neighbor?"
Smith said he wrote the column to demonstrate the sense of violation he felt over his personal records being profiled by secretive government agencies.
"I needed to call Poindexter anyway, and it seemed like a worthy concept that if he's going to be compiling data that most certainly will leak around to other departments and get used, one way to get readers to think about it was to turn that around," Smith said.
What Smith didn't realize was that Poindexter's phone number and other information would end up on more than 100 Web pages a week later as others took up the cause.
Phone-phreaking hackers supplied details on the Verizon switch serving the admiral's home. The popular Cryptome privacy-issues website posted satellite photos of the house.
Poindexter could not be reached for comment for this story, and calls to his home phone now reach a recording: "The party you are calling is not available at this time."
Since the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency began awarding contracts for the Total Information Awareness project in August, the effort has been criticized by both civil rights advocates and data-mining experts.
The dispute over TIA seems to fall not along straight political party lines, but between advocates and opponents of the government's right to monitor its own citizens. Former President Clinton expressed support for the project in a recent public appearance, while conservative New York Times columnist William Safire recently wrote a pointed editorial criticizing the idea.
One Bush voter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the pranks on Poindexter: "If they're making him as uncomfortable as we are, good."
For pictures of John Poindexter's house, see http://cryptome.org/tia-eyeball.htm
DARPA is "soliciting innovative proposals to (1) determine whether genetically-determined odortypes can be used to identify specific individuals, and if so (2) to develop the science and enabling technology for detecting and identifying specific individuals by such odortypes." See DARPA's presolicitation notice for the "Odortype Detection Program," December 13, here.