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Pentagon's diary could track each word, step

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2003

WASHINGTON - Coming to you soon from the Pentagon: the diary to end all diaries - a multimedia, digital record of everywhere you go and everything you see, hear, read, say and touch.

Known as LifeLog, the project has been put out for contractor bids by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the agency that helped build the Internet and is developing the next generation of antiterrorism tools.

The agency doesn't consider LifeLog an antiterrorism system but rather a tool to capture "one person's experience in and interactions with the world" through a camera, microphone and sensors worn by the user. Everything from heartbeats to travel to Internet chatting would be recorded.

The goal is to create breakthrough software that helps analyze behavior, habits and routines, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by the Associated Press. The products of the unclassified project would be available to the private sector and government agencies - a concern to privacy advocates.

DARPA's Jan Walker said LifeLog is intended for users who give their consent to be monitored. It could enhance the memory of military commanders and improve computerized military training by chronicling how users learn and then tailoring training accordingly, officials said.

But John Pike of Global, a defense analysis group, is dubious the project has military applications. "I have a much easier time understanding how Big Brother would want this than how (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld would use it," he said.

Steven Aftergood, a Federation of American Scientists defense analyst, said LifeLog would collect far more information than needed to improve a general's memory - enough "to measure human experience on an unprecedentedly specific level." And that concerns privacy experts.

DARPA rejects any notion LifeLog will be used for spying.

Walker said each LifeLog user could "decide when to turn the sensors on or off and who would share the data."

"The goal ... is to "see what I see,' rather than to "see me,"' she said.

The Pentagon agency plans to award up to four 18-month contracts for LifeLog beginning this summer.

Contracting documents give a sense of its scope.

Cameras and microphones would capture what the user sees or hears; sensors would record what he or she feels. Global positioning satellite sensors would log every movement. Biomedical sensors would monitor vital signs. Internet activity, telephone calls and voicemails would be stored. Mail and faxes would be scanned. Links to every radio and television broadcast heard and every newspaper, magazine, book, Web site or database seen would be recorded.

Breakthrough software would automatically produce an electronic diary that organizes the data into "episodes" of the user's life, such as "I took the 08:30 a.m. flight from Washington's Reagan National Airport to Boston's Logan Airport," according to the documents.

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