Able Danger Blog

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

What can Capital One do that the NSA can't?

From Michael Tanji at Group Intel:

Despite all the hard work put forth by our intelligence community there are still major problems associated with efforts to find terrorists.

Recent reporting on the failure of NSA’s TRAILBLAZER program comes to mind. Designed to do on a large scale the kind of work that the much-disputed NSA terrorist surveillance program is carrying out now, TRAILBLAZER is a bottomless money pit. Let us not forget the recently deceased Virtual Case File fiasco at the FBI, the myriad of problems and the expense of the US VISIT system, and the penchant for Customs and Border Patrol computers to just flat out quit. The icing on the cake of course is the DOD’s Able Danger program, which pointed out the threat to the USS Cole and the 9/11 hijackers, but was canceled when it was thought that the effort – you guessed it – spied on citizens.

But what about that other data-hungry group that seeks to vacuum up your information and monitor your activities for purposes that might run contrary to your personal welfare? Unlike the intelligence community these organizations have mastered the technology necessary to know exactly how to most effectively gather and exploit your personal data.

When any of the tens of millions of Capital One credit card customers call the company, the firm’s computers correlate the data they have on their buying patterns and recent purchase activity to predict why they are calling. The call is routed to just the right customer service representative who knows with near certainty what he needs to do to solve their problem and what additional products or services to offer that their likely to buy. All of this happens in a fraction of a second.