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CIA Invests In Firm That Datamines Social Networks 190

Posted by timothy
from the problem-with-limited-privatization dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired: "In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It's part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using 'open source intelligence' — information that's publicly available... Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn't touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what's being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords. 'That's kind of the basic step — get in and monitor,' says company senior vice president Blake Cahill. Then Visible 'scores' each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. ('Trying to determine who really matters,' as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface."Apropos: Another anonymous reader points out an article making the point that users don't even realize how much private information they're sharing over these services.
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CIA Invests In Firm That Datamines Social Networks

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  • by Drummergeek0 (1513771) <(moc.ddb3) (ta) (ynot)> on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @11:20AM (#29808593)

    This is data that people freely post to be read by all anyway. All this seems to do is aggregate it. If you post it in a public forum, you shouldn't care who uses it or how. Unless the sites being scraped have policies against said scraping, who cares? I see it as a very valuable tool for sales departments.

    Besides, I am sure the signal to noise ratio for this system is incredibly low, so one has to wonder how much usable information is retrieved.

    The only problem I have with this is that my tax dollars are going to fund it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @11:28AM (#29808741)

    Courtesy of Google: galois lattices and social networks [google.com].

    Yours In Ashgabat,
    Philboyd Studge

  • Here's why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoYob (1630681) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @11:30AM (#29808787)
    1. To promote technologies that will add to the CIA's arsenal.
    2. To buy into companies that allow them to circumnavigate Constitutional provisions against spying on American citizens.

    For example, the second one, the CIA loves companies like this one [choicepoint.com] and the credit bureaus because they can legally collect information on private citizens. Then the CIA "buys" the information from them and they can go to Congress and say, "Nope! We are NOT spying on Americans." - at least that's the answer to the Congressmen that aren't afraid to appear to be "weak on terrorism" or afraid to be lambasted by ignorant talk show hosts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @11:30AM (#29808789)

    There are a TON of companies that are trying to datamine social media for a variety of reasons- I'm posting anonymously because I work for a company that makes one of these products.

    What is interesting is companies that make consumer products all want these tools to be able to track the companies interaction with the consumer- these companies are specifically replying back to specific posters in order to stop the spread of what they call "misinformation", but in actuality is just anything where the company is painted in a bad light. Let me be clear: Corporate America wants to control everything that is said online, and the tools to do it are starting to show up. Companies are starting to employ people whose soul job is to look at social media and respond to negative comments.

    I predict not far in the future there is going to be a push for owners of social media sites to have some control over who can index their content.

  • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc@carp a n e t . net> on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @11:34AM (#29808883) Homepage

    You may also wonder why they needed to illegally . Or perhaps you might wonder why they would [wikipedia.org]dose "their own" citizens with LSD [wikipedia.org]

    I think Zack De La Rocha, The Last Emperor & KRS-ONE said it best in their track "CIA"
    "Need I say the C.I.A. be criminals in action"

    But given that the same song said that "President Clinton should delete them", I guess it wasn't as popular as it could have been :) and sadly, since 9/11 they are actually percieved to have a job again. A front job is always a very good thing for a criminal. Nothing like an air of legitimacy to hide criminal minds.

    -Steve

  • Re:Here's why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DutchUncle (826473) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:26PM (#29809847)
    So my follow-on question is, Why does everyone think it's OK for private companies answerable to no one (or the highest bidder) to be collecting this information in the first place? Well, yes, I suppose most people in this thread don't think so, but all of the normal people out there seem to be perfectly happy with the idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:47PM (#29810257)
    I sometimes wonder about Google too...

    I also wonder about the trillions the Federal Reserve refuses to talk about. Where did the money go?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:47PM (#29810263)

    Cuba?

    Venezuela?

    China?

    Germany, whose secret police is legendary? (wikipedia: "the case was thrown out in 2003 after it was discovered that a number of the NPD's inner circle were in fact undercover agents or informants of the German secret services, like the federal Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz.")

    The UK?

    The EU as a whole?

    Face it - surveillance fits the goal whatever your goals are, as long as those goals aren't SOLELY AND NOTHING BUT "no surveillance"

  • Obviously (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mollog (841386) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @02:29PM (#29812077)
    Yes, I know that organizations are 'astroturfing'. That is why I used the term 'turf'. That's been going on for quite some time.

    What's new and different is governmental use of automated tools. Would it not be fair to assume that secret government agencies, already enjoying unconstitutional immunity, would use these tools to effectively destroy groups who, for example, seek to put limits on the powers of secret government agencies?

    And would it not be smart to assume that these tools will be used by politically motivated groups to shout down those brave souls who attempt to stand up for rights of individuals?

    We already have media networks (Fox) pushing political agendas. Tools like this will surely be used to push those narrow agendas at the expense of free speech.
  • by hey (83763) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @02:44PM (#29812293) Journal

    > I'm sure they can datamine beyond any privacy settings.

    Probably. But I wonder how.

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