In “Data Mining and Amazon Wishlists,” security expert Bruce Schneier talked about the implications of an AppleFritter post “Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists” by Tom Owad. As Schneier notes:
Of course, there are applications where this sort of data mining makes a whole lot of sense. But finding terrorists isn't one of them. It's a needle-in-a-haystack problem, and piling on more hay doesn't help matters much.
Owad observes that “few things tell you as much about a person as the books he chooses to read,” and details the thirty hours of technical effort it took him to extract data from 260,000 Amazon wishlists. He then generated maps of the readers' location using their shipping addresses.
I’ve mentioned my unusual reading habits before [LINK], and Amazon does maintain some data about me. I doubt that anyone in the NSA/CIA/FBI would be able to draw any useful conclusions from what they find, and I certainly hope they haven’t bothered to look. How can they find any terrorists if they continue wasting time harassing peace activists, civil libertarians, and writers of anti-Bush books?