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Homeland Security Mining Social Media For Signs of Bio Attacks 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the friend-your-anthrax dept.
jjp9999 writes "Nextgov reports, 'The Homeland Security Department has commissioned Accenture to test technology that mines open social networks for indications of pandemics, according to the vendor.' This will kick off a year-long biosurveillance program, costing $3 million, that will log trends in public health by looking through public posts. This ties back to White House guidelines released in July that ask federal agencies to 'Consider social media as a force multiplier that can empower individuals and communities to provide early warning and global situational awareness.'"
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Homeland Security Mining Social Media For Signs of Bio Attacks

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  • by xystren (522982) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:10AM (#41955539)
    As annoying as social media may be, it does provide sources of information... And people that use social media, appear so willing to disclose anything and everything regarding their personal life. So, why wouldn't DHS or health departments not want to use this type and source of information?
    • by 3seas (184403)

      What shut down the crack industry was a single cop who pursued tighter controls over the purchase and shipment of pseudoephedrine.
      So today you have to show your ID in order to buy sinus meds containing that drug.

      Point is, looking for biological attack in digital world is a greater degree of spending than what it is likely to pay off is ever.

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        You mean methamphetamine, not crack. Meth is cooked up using ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, components of over the counter nasal decongestants. Crack is pretty much cocaine that is mixed with baking soda and "cooked" until hard and broken up into little chunks otherwise knows as "rocks".

    • personally i think that the TLAs should see about accessing ANY PUBLIC SOURCE of data they can get hands on.

      now of course i think that there should be full disclosure of any sources they are using and it should not be illegal to create "flack clouds" and if you set something in a service to Private then it should be considered NONPUBLIC.

    • by Sez Zero (586611)

      As annoying as social media may be, it does provide sources of information...

      DHS is on the lookout for the nefarious 4chan terrorist Ahsheet Mahdrawz; they believe he is planning to attack NYC with a "dirty bomb".

  • Communism (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by sepiroth (598780)
    Congratulations. I thought twice before saying anything outloud which could be overheard by authorities during the communism era. I was born in communism and I'm going to die in communism. Thank you. (I know it's not technically communism but you know)
    • Congratulations. I thought twice before saying anything outloud which could be overheard by authorities during the communism era. I was born in communism and I'm going to die in communism. Thank you. (I know it's not technically communism but you know)

      Wait...so you're complaining that an organization tasked to defend the U.S. and all citizens therefor from any threat, uses public available data (made public by the owners by their own free will) to check if there's a possible attack with a biological/chemical weapon (or a simple pandemic)...so that they can react faster and safe more lifes?! And you call that communism?! Did I miss something important...except that whole "the government is evil and wants into my panties" bullshit?

      • by sepiroth (598780)
        Don't be mistaken it will stay with the USA. Other countries will follow happily.
        Right I am complaining about just that. It is so, anything can be viewed as threat. And surely it begins with weapons of mass destruction. It end with anything you say or do could be used against you. Should I feel guilty for something I say? Do I have to think twice before I say something on social media? I should feel the same as in totalitarianism (thanks AC).
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:10AM (#41955543)

    Some sort of brain affliction that makes people distrust and hate the dept. of Homeland Security. I hear it's spreading fast...

    • by danbuter (2019760)
      Probably because Homeland Security has been given almost unlimited rights to detain you forever for no reason whatsoever, often without a warrant or any other documentation.
      • No way, Obama would never do that.
        • by JustOK (667959)

          Sometimes, he acts like he's a republican.

    • If you're interested on the effects of the internet on (stupid) internet behaviour, Clay Shirky [wikipedia.org] has a few great books. He has an interesting scientific explanation of the John Gabriel Greater Internet Theory, too.
    • by houghi (78078)

      Could they not use this for the good and warn people about e.g. gonorrhea the moment you post that you hooked up with a person who Googled it a few days earlier and then called their doctor for an appointment.
      Probably even cross referencing with other people who have been in contact with that person and have been diagnosed positive already.

      I mean, they have all the information anyway and it will show that the government is out to protect us from harm. Right?

  • Now they will see pandemics of hangovers and butt hurt...

  • ...Biological attack....

    No wonder we are in such huge debt...

    • ...Biological attack....

      No wonder we are in such huge debt...

      You're kidding, right?

      First of all, the "social media" scene is specifically intended to reflect the real world, of which illness is a component. I can't help but think that you might get advance warning of all sorts of stuff that would take doctors several days to send in mandatory CDC disease reports on.

      And timely? What was the world's first indication of the Osama Bin Laden raid in progress? Right, some dude's tweet in Pakistan.

      And $3 million? What component of a warplane could you buy for that? If you c

  • I'd much rather see restaurant monitoring. You should be able to eat at McD and taco bell w/o spending the next 24 hours on the porcelain throne. However for practical reasons everyone knows you can't, locally. Its NOT the type of food... You can eat greasy burgers at a regional chain and giant burritos at a national specialty chain all week without getting food poisoning because they are actually sanitary. I have noticed a trend that places that actively ignore immigration laws oddly enough seem to ign

    • by oobayly (1056050)

      ... I don't go to restaurants staffed exclusively by illegals.

      Out of interest, how do you determine this - do you require ID, base it only on looks, or on how much English they can speak? Other than the fact that you appear to be confusing illegal immigrants with immegrants, you've got a valid point.

      • American definition of illegal immigrant: Anyone who entered the country after me.

    • You never know, perhaps inspection places already do this kind of thing manually, or even have automatic systems in place. It would be a bad idea to make it well known though, otherwise there would also be a healthy industry in Twitter misinformation to kill competitors.. and again, maybe there already are such services in place. I don't really get involved in Twitter myself, but these kind of uses make it sound almost interesting.

    • by NetFusion (86828)
      Your doing it wrong. Anyone eating feed lot corn cow burgers and burritos should expect 24 hours on the throne as the norm, not the outlier. There are a lot more issues with fast food then just the building and staff hygiene. The food itself is suspect and lacking in real nutrition.

      Eating healthy means eating single source foods that are preferably made from local organically produced ingredients. When you look at a plate of food there should be little mystery about where the food on it came from an
  • by danbuter (2019760) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:24AM (#41955591)
    I'm glad they are monitoring for this stuff. At least it will help people. But _why_ does it cost $15 million per year?
    • Would you read people's tweets for anything less??
    • by vlm (69642) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:36AM (#41955663)

      Not sure what the problem is. Put more explanation into it.

      I checked opensecrets and the accenture PAC only paid bribes of about 2/3 mil last year.

      http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00300707 [opensecrets.org]

      The normal RICO style bribe is somewhat less than 1/10th. So yeah the contract "shoudda" only been about 6 mil. There's a lot of wiggle room, I'm sure this isn't their only contract, and I'm sure that PAC isn't their only bribe paying system. But its not too many orders of magnitude outta line for what tax money they're getting vs what they paid to get it. They don't seem to be getting too much or too little contract for the "donations" they provided, compared to everyone else at the feeding trough.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Because someone's crony needs a new job... and of course the staff that acts like they know what they are doing. It rather reminds me of where I work now. For some reason, IT department is stressed with too much work and not enough people. (We have one person out as we're seriously feeling the pain... that's a shrinking company of about 300 and 5 IT infrastructure and support people. Meanwhile, HR department has a small army of people... 17 at last count.)

      You're right to point out that it's a waste of m

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      $15 million a year? That amounts to a department with something like 100 techies and 15 managers plus some equipment and facilities. Which in the realm of federal spending, qualifies as chump change.

      The best way to figure out large spending numbers like that, I've found, is to figure that 1 white-collar employee costs about $100K (salary, benefits, HR, office space, etc). So if you make the conversion from dollars to employees, you can get a much better sense of how big an effort really is.

  • As if millions of voices suddenly cried out against state control of the internet and its data, and were suddenly silenced.

  • by hughbar (579555) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:35AM (#41955655) Homepage
    That used to be Arthur Andersen. I first 'met' them in about 1975 when they were messing up something in Woolworths UK. Since then they've been involved in messing up a great many things in gov.uk and some of our bigger companies. I'm not sure what their record is like elsewhere. Also, remember they 'audited' Enron, hence the name change. So, I don't expect that much from this, either way. $3 million they'll be through that in a couple of days, too...
    • by dkf (304284)

      That used to be Arthur Andersen. I first 'met' them in about 1975 when they were messing up something in Woolworths UK. Since then they've been involved in messing up a great many things in gov.uk and some of our bigger companies. I'm not sure what their record is like elsewhere. Also, remember they 'audited' Enron, hence the name change. So, I don't expect that much from this, either way. $3 million they'll be through that in a couple of days, too...

      The AA/Accenture split happened before that, or at least before it blew up into public knowledge. IIRC, the business services part decided that they wanted to go off on their own and so did an MBO and became Arthur Andersen Consulting (before changing their name to Accenture a few years later). Meanwhile AA decided that they wanted to get back into the business services line. Everything was going fine (if somewhat confusing) and then it was discovered that AA had been rather less diligent than they should h

  • by dcollins (135727) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:47AM (#41955719) Homepage

    Also from Accenture (it's believed) -- http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/election-2012 [tumblr.com]

    Hope it doesn't crash on "day zero", but I suppose from an internal profit-margin perspective, why not?

  • Smivs goes off to his Farcebook page to post "Won't be coming out to play tonight - gone down with Bubonic Plague".
  • ... about my recent big farts on facebook!
    Or one of my friends, oh my, I guess I'm doomed!

  • If there was some sort of pandemic that reduced population below the current unsustainable levels, how could that be considered a bad thing? It is believed that the Black Death in Europe was a net gain. It produced all sorts of positive outcomes due to the population reduction. The 1% had to share more of their wealth with the 99% as there were simply too few workers for the land. Unsustainable agricultural practices were abandoned (marginal land was no longer cultivated and ecological disaster was aver
    • by RockDoctor (15477)
      There certainly was major cultural change consequent on the Black Death, including a substantial rise in the value of labour - which effectively ended the existence of slavery / serfdom within Britain (if not Europe overall) ; debt bondage still existed, but that's a substantially different thing to slavery. Freedom of travel became much more important de facto, as former serfs could move to work as paid labourers. A lot of changes in agriculture too, though I don't think you could sustain a claim that it a
  • by Anonymous Coward

    After the smashing success of the ORCA project for the Romney election, I'm sure Accenture will be equally successful with this new project.

  • When people start dropping like flies, chances are that something like a pandemic is at work...

    This seems like a waste of money - If people are really sick, chances are they won't be posting about it. And if they aren't really sick, it isn't worth writing home about and any pandemic of it is likely to be utter uninteresting and trivial.

  • You can easily find publicly in the wild these messages:

    A: Yeah, I'm trying to get those anthrax spores reproducing, as just a kilo is not enough for our nasty projects ....
    B: Naa, you waste your time. I still have those Ebola viruses in my locker. A few grams and you are done. And cheaper.
    A: Well, all right! What about meeting down at Time Square, close to the second oak tree?
    B: It's OK. Don't forget to wear your nice white kaftan. I'll wear mine. And bring the money!
    A: See you!
    B: Inshalla!

  • https://www.facebook.com/anthrax [facebook.com]

    Not only are they spreading biological agents, but they're doing it under the guise of being a heavy metal band.

    Summon the drones.

  • look for FB posts/status updates containing the phrase "ate Wendy's chili" or some combination thereof.

  • I will now start tweeting every time I fart, and I will announce it as a "sudden biological gas release event".

  • Available free from Google: http://www.google.org/flutrends/ [google.org]
  • How do you continuously fetch and process all (public?) messages from Facebook, Twitter and others in near-realtime? Does the US government get special access? Is there a basis in law for this?

    Once you get the data, do you just feed it into some data mining system?

    Any idea about the storage and CPU requirements for such a system?

    Obviously, processing such feeds is interesting for businesses and academia as well. Do you know any such projects?

  • Why don't they save 3 million and just ask Google?
    Didn't Google used to post a flu map?
    • They plan to stomp on Google at some point. This is a war of three armies: Big government Big business Big media Each has it's own plans for the herd,,, Moooooo 'scuse me while I chew my cud
  • I must suggest that the only powers capable of bio terrorism are either parties to which weapons have been leaked (on purpose?) or parties who control HLS, so this by default must be nothing more than endless fear mongering seen during the nuclear age of the cold war, and the terrorist age of the early 21st century. Huddle in the corner and eat the grass nearest the fence, all you scared little cattle. Make sure you believe that uncle Sam is the only one who can protect you. Lead you into the slaughter hous

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