Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Homeland Security Systems and Event Types

One of the requirements set forth in the Markle Foundation Report is that access to private information has to be policy driven, thus, there is a need for doctrine with respect to the design to be implemented for SHARE. A concept I propose for this would be based on the notion of event types, or to be precise, an ontology of events in which information is recorded such that the event type determines who can access this information with or without the consent of the observed. An event is a combination of a time, location and event type. Any individual who participates in the event by dint of being at that location at that time obtains a role.

This is not a new idea. This is fundamental to police records management now and to measurements of policing behaviors. For instance, a traffic stop is a simple example of an event type. Many states require the reason for the traffic stop to be recorded in the records management system so that post-stop analysis can be used to discover trends that might indicate racial or other kinds of profiling. Use of force information is recorded to determine if officers are brutalizing citizens, or to justify the use of force given the circumstances of the 'event'. Role-based access to information is the basis for much security management in computer systems today.

Event types may be cultural. For example, a concert held in an outdoor setting is a cultural event. The opt-in to the rules for the behavior at the concert is the ticket purchase. Holders of tickets are legal participants of a type, concert employees are another type. Each of these is a role in a system of roles where the contract to obtain the role determines the allowable and disallowable behaviors. It also determines the rights to being observed just as telephone and email communications are legally observable when one obligates to the role of an employee. This means that someone attending a public event is observable and that identity obtained by biometric observation is legally usable because the opt-in is contracted and the contract is a service of the event type.

The implication is that the semantic web technologies such as OWL for declaring ontologies can be used to create legally recognizable event types and that the policies for observation and for later access to information beyond the observed information such as access to private data can be described in terms of the event types. This is how subpoenas work now. Suspicion of activity must be based on reasonable grounds. Access to private information is also based on these grounds.

It is likely that the seminal concept that unites these and could enable the homeland security industry to organize a standard for policy-contrained access is the concept of event types as a cross-product with roles.

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