The Pentagon has pulled the plug on LifeLog, its stunningly ambitious effort to build a database tracking a person's entire existence.
Run by Darpa, the Defense Department's research arm, LifeLog aimed to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees or does: the phone calls made, the TV shows watched, the magazines read, the plane tickets bought, the e-mail sent and received. Out of this seemingly endless ocean of information, computer scientists would plot distinctive routes in the data, mapping relationships, memories, events and experiences.
LifeLog's backers said the all-encompassing diary could have turned into a near-perfect digital memory, giving its users computerized assistants with an almost flawless recall of what they had done in the past. But civil libertarians immediately pounced on the project when it debuted last spring, arguing that LifeLog could become the ultimate tool for profiling potential enemies of the state.
Researchers close to the project say they're not sure why it was dropped late last month. Darpa hasn't provided an explanation for LifeLog's quiet cancellation. "A change in priorities" is the only rationale agency spokeswoman Jan Walker provided.
However, related Darpa efforts concerning software secretaries and mechanical brains are still moving ahead as planned.
LifeLog is the latest in a series of controversial programs that have been canceled by Darpa in recent months. The Terrorism Information Awareness, or TIA, data-mining initiative was eliminated by Congress -- although many analysts believe its research continues on the classified side of the Pentagon's ledger. The Policy Analysis Market, which provided a stock market of sorts for people to bet on terror strikes, was almost immediately withdrawn after its details came to light in July.
"Darpa's pretty gun-shy now," added Lee Tien, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been critical of many agency efforts. "After TIA, they discovered they weren't ready to deal with the firestorm of criticism."
My Wired News article has details on LifeLog's cancellation.
THERE'S MORE: LifeLog may be dead, but Darpa still has plenty of creepy data-mining programs, the BBC notes.

Imagine being able to pinpoint someone's location anywhere in the world simply by typing a few keywords on your PC. That is what software partly funded by the US military is trying to do.
The MetaCarta program works by analysing thousands of documents and cross-checking the results with a massive geographical database...
The software automatically extracts geographic references from text documents such as e-mails or webpages. Millions of documents can be searched using keywords, place names or a time reference. Search results appear as points on a map instead of as a list of documents. The company says this information can be used, for example, to track patterns of criminal activity and identify spots of intensity.

(via /.)
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