It's like one of those propaganda newsreels from the 1940s: "Marketing Software Goes to War." Yes, the lowly duplicate detection systems designed to eliminate unnecessary catalogs are now hunting bigger game – terrorists at our borders. Fraud detection software has graduated from guarding your cell phone to protecting airports, water supplies and ballparks. Credit card databases that once minded your spending limit are now watching your every move for suspicious behavior.

Like pictures of determined Cub Scouts searching the skies for Nazi warplanes, this is all very cute but doesn't inspire much confidence. One hopes there are professionals hidden in the background who have been working on the problems for years and already come up with more reliable solutions. At a minimum, systems professionals must hope that the people in charge realize how error-prone any automated approach must be.

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