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What The DHS Is Looking For In Your Posts 278

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the extreme-militia-rand-somalia-cheney-aid-missles dept.
New submitter lister king of smeg writes "As we all know The Department of Homeland Security monitors social networks,in an attempt to expose 'Items Of Interest.' As it turns out many terms including seemingly benign words such as flu, agent, response, cops drill, etc are on the list of words that set off warning bells for the government spooks. Many of the terms make sense ..., but there are some real stupid ones on the list to like 'social network' ... [according to a] list of key words provided to a DHS contractor that were released by EPIC."
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What The DHS Is Looking For In Your Posts

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:25AM (#39196853)

    Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Tsunami, Earthquake, Tremor, Flood

    Are they trying to catch real-world terrorists or Lex Luthor?

    I guess at least we should be happy that "Dissent", "Protest", "Occupy", "Tea party", and "Third Party" aren't on there...well, not yet anyway.

  • by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <nosduh.arabrab>> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:29AM (#39196909) Journal
    The word "troll" is not yet a "terr'rist term".
  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:33AM (#39196955) Homepage

    Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Tsunami, Earthquake, Tremor, Flood

    Are they trying to catch real-world terrorists or Lex Luthor?

    Well, Homeland security also encompasses the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so they do have some real interest in getting the news fast if there is a natural disaster going on. It turns out that the twitter feeds actually do spread news of natural disasters faster than watching CNN.

    (...and, for that matter, if Lex Luthor is up to tricks, shouldn't they want to catch him?)

  • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:35AM (#39196973)

    Are they trying to catch real-world terrorists or Lex Luthor?

    They are trying to catch you, the citizen, organizing to reform [juancole.com] the financial elites that have ruined our economy and control our/their politicians.

  • Re:since 9/11 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:44AM (#39197095)

    Not till they shut off dancing with the stars, hillbilly hand fishin, and monday night football.

  • Re:Examples (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:45AM (#39197109) Homepage Journal

    They're only useful if they don't provide too many false positives. If you get fifty thousand pages talking about someone having the flu or mail transport agents, the real threats are going to be buried.

    Plus, mere keyword checking breeds a set of newer, stupider DHS agents who miss the whole "intelligence" part of intelligence, and are likely to detain someone who has tweeted that they're going to party and destroy L.A.
    Somebody set up us the bomb.

  • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Johann Lau (1040920) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:49AM (#39197153) Homepage Journal

    I don't see anything that would flag for a white Christian "America First" group

    Why would a bunch of Nazis monitor a bunch of Nazis?

    Yes, I alluding to white supremacists and radical pro-life groups that resort to bombings and doctor assassinations.

    Which in turn increases the pretext for ramping up security? Again why would anyone in power monitor that, other than to know where to send cheques? It's not like the people who run the country perform abortions, or give a flying fuck about those who do. And religious turmoil is always good, that is the perfect distract from anything and everything that matters.

    Yeah, I'm being cranky. So what. Also, Lenny will perform the Green Cheese at the Saturday Lane with a scooter full of bobcats and two, at 72 north hotel sigma poopyhead alpha.

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:51AM (#39197169)

    Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Tsunami, Earthquake, Tremor, Flood

    Are they trying to catch real-world terrorists or Lex Luthor?

    Considering that any person considering illegal action that has had at least a modicum of training (which is fairly easily found by simple going to the right websites/forums) would never use terms such as these openly in social networks, I doubt that would ever even happen. One of the first things they would learn would be operational security, ie code-words and code phrases. I highly doubt DHS seriously expects that this will help them identify anyone. More than likely they see it as a way to track general trends, which would explain the inclusion of weather terms. As a poster below me mentioned, FEMA comes under the purview of DHS, so coupling search terms like this with location data can give data on path, damage levels, infection rates/patterns (in the case of "flu"). This is far more than a simple Big Brother-esque surveillance program as the summary is trying to lead people to believe. It has plenty of scientific, beneficial uses as well.

  • by Johann Lau (1040920) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:56AM (#39197233) Homepage Journal

    Are they trying to catch real-world terrorists or Lex Luthor?

    Neither. Who the fuck are you kidding, other than yourself? What terrorist would talk in plain text on social networks about serious stuff? I'd be surprised if they're even into mail and cell phones a whole lot. I mean, the ones that actually end up doing stuff -- surely not the American population, which might after all wake up to how badly it's being shafted, and which is the main target of this. The only threat the terrorists face is the tax payers saying "nah, let's pay for something else, schools maybe". So they come up with stuff like this. And hey, it's not like you have any way of knowing what they're actually searching for, that won't be declassified for 50 years, if ever. This is just something to tell people "they're watching", and the more shallow the discussion about it is, the better.

  • Re:Examples (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sedennial (182739) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:03AM (#39197339)
    Not necessarily. The keyword list published probably is only the trigger key links. If you also started talking about 'social media' in the context of 'covert channel' you can bet that social media would raise a red flag.

    Many of the algorithms used (especially some implementations of Bayesian filters) for this type of scoring are more than capable of correctly (or almost always correctly) identifying and excluding 'trolling'. You look for patterns of recurring words or linked words or synonymic links (aka if 'anthrax' is in my list, also look for '((bacterial OR viral)+agent)'. You look for deltas in the frequency of occurrence with persistence. Couple that with dynamic weighting based on local/national/global new events. So if you suddenly start using the words 'anthrax', 'cities', and 'target' when there isn't anything like that going on, and your conversation persists, that will get a high score. If every 17 days you post a tweet that contains a city name, a time, and a "random" dictionary word (aka a one-time crypto pad), that will probably score much higher than your talking about anthrax right after someone sends a bunch of letters with white powder around the country. IThe sophistication of the language context analysis software that is in existence is way past anything that most people realize.
  • Routine spying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kilfarsnar (561956) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:09AM (#39197399)

    Isn't it interesting that we now can take for granted that the government is spying on us? When I was a boy, one of the great things about this country, and one of the things that distinguished us from other countries, was that we didn't have to worry about that. In fact we took it for granted that the government wasn't watching what we did and listening to what we said.

    Then some people flew some planes into some buildings and we all lost our collective shit. It seems everyone, from the media to politicians to businesses to defense contractors and intelligence agencies, has an interest in keeping the American people cowered in fear. And cower we do! We would never have put up with the wars and the invasions of our rights and privacy 12 years ago. But once people have the shit scared out of them, they will accept a lot of stuff they wouldn't have before. There are people know and count on this.

    People, 9/11 was a one-off event. It was horrifying and disturbing, but it isn't going to happen again. In the meantime, there have been no significant terrorist attacks in this country. Sure, we've had the shoe-bomber and then the underwear-bomber (both of whom evaded security). But are those guys worth all this? There is no terrorist threat! Yes, there are those few who think violence will get them what they want, but that has always been true. There is no threat that warrants this overreaction, and shifting of the fundamental character of this country.

    But now everyone is afraid, and are kept that way by the entities mentioned above, who see self-interest in our fear. They are not interested in actually protecting you (as if you needed to be protected), they are lining their pockets and building power structures. It's a shame, because it seems that at the end of the day, "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is just a line in a song.

    There you go DHS (or NSA, or FBI, or CIA, or NRO), put me on your list.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we have systems designed to monitor weather, flooding, seismic activity, volcanism and so on? If they're finding out about natural disasters from social networks, that's beyond pathetic.

  • by need4mospd (1146215) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:36AM (#39197715)

    What terrorist would talk in plain text on social networks about serious stuff?

    The kind the DHS wants us to believe actually exist.

  • Re:Routine spying (Score:4, Insightful)

    by acoustix (123925) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:37AM (#39197725) Homepage

    I agree 100%. The words "give me liberty or give me death" mean more now than ever.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:01PM (#39198031)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we have systems designed to monitor weather, flooding, seismic activity, volcanism and so on? If they're finding out about natural disasters from social networks, that's beyond pathetic.

    No system is 100% accurate, so it's best to have redundancy and correlate multiple sensors. Also, it takes time to process data from them, and then more time to send information to interested parties. Twitter or other sources (say, the amount of 911 calls being made in an area) could be used to prioritize an area for more detailed scrutiny.

    Besides, disaster recognition systems cost money, so you can't just blanket every square meter with sensors - you have to decide what disasters are likely to hit where. But even low-probability disasters can hit, and monitoring Twitter is a cheap way of getting basic coverage for everything everywhere, so why not do it?

  • DHS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eternaldoctorwho (2563923) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:11PM (#39198137)
    The Department of "Homeland Security"....that name always reminds me of the Nightwatch from Babylon 5. I still cringe when people refer to the U.S. as "Homeland" or "Motherland".
  • by C_L_Lk (1049846) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:24PM (#39198271) Homepage

    Yes and no. With today's population all having handheld devices that can twitter, facebook, etc. it's often the case that the local population to an event gets the message out often substantially before the official channels do. Take for example tornadoes - while the NWS may have radar that shows where a tornado might be occurring, and people calling 911 might set off official responses to a tornado, someone who's sitting in their house tweeting that the house next door just flew away in a twister is more immediate and more eyewitness - which is what DHS is looking for - they want to know if something is going on before the official channels can process it. After RTFA and the document related, it appears they have a "trust order relationship" - first off - major news media (CNN, etc.) - second is "local media" - third is things like well known websites and news aggregate sites, fourth is blogs and social media, etc... things that are 3rd and 4th level need "confirmation" from a first level source before it becomes official. This just sets off the warning bells that something might be happening and everyone needs to pay more attention that something could be up.... makes sense if you ask me.

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