PDA

View Full Version : Big Brother IS Watching......



Peter Lemkin
11-04-2009, 07:04 PM
Exclusive: U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets
By Noah Shachtman
October 19, 2009
www.wired.com

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/10/ex...onitoring-firm/

America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.
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, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible 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.

In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.

Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.

“Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” says Steven Aftergood, who tracks intelligence issues at the Federation of American Scientists. But “even if information is openly gathered by intelligence agencies it would still be problematic if it were used for unauthorized domestic investigations or operations. Intelligence agencies or employees might be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if all of the information in question is technically ‘open source.’”

Visible chief executive officer Dan Vetras says the CIA is now an “end customer,” thanks to the In-Q-Tel investment. And more government clients are now on the horizon. “We just got awarded another one in the last few days,” Vetras adds.

Tighe disputes this — sort of. “This contract, this deal, this investment has nothing to do with any agency of government and this company,” he says. But Tighe quickly notes that In-Q-Tel does have “an interested end customer” in the intelligence community for Visibile. And if all goes well, the company’s software will be used in pilot programs at that agency. “In pilots, we use real data. And during the adoption phase, we use it real missions.”

Neither party would disclose the size of In-Q-Tel’s investment in Visible, a 90-person company with expected revenues of about $20 million in 2010. But a source familiar with the deal says the In-Q-Tel cash will be used to boost Visible’s foreign languages capabilities, which already include Arabic, French, Spanish and nine other languages.

Visible has been trying for nearly a year to break into the government field. In late 2008, the company teamed up with the Washington, DC, consulting firm Concepts & Strategies, which has handled media monitoring and translation services for U.S. Strategic Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others. On its website, Concepts & Strategies is recruiting “social media engagement specialists” with Defense Department experience and a high proficiency in Arabic, Farsi, French, Urdu or Russian. The company is also looking for an “information system security engineer” who already has a “Top Secret SCI [Sensitive Compartmentalized Information] with NSA Full Scope Polygraph” security clearance.

The intelligence community has been interested in social media for years. In-Q-Tel has sunk money into companies like Attensity, which recently announced its own web 2.0-monitoring service. The agencies have their own, password-protected blogs and wikis — even a MySpace for spooks. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence maintains an Open Source Center, which combs publicly available information, including web 2.0 sites. Doug Naquin, the Center’s Director, told an audience of intelligence professionals in October 2007 that “we’re looking now at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence…. We have groups looking at what they call ‘citizens media’: people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the internet. Then there’s social media, phenomena like MySpace and blogs.”

But, “the CIA specifically needs the help of innovative tech firms to keep up with the pace of innovation in social media. Experienced IC [intelligence community] analysts may not be the best at detecting the incessant shift in popularity of social-networking sites. They need help in following young international internet user-herds as they move their allegiance from one site to another,” Lewis Shepherd, the former senior technology officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, says in an e-mail. “Facebook says that more than 70 percent of its users are outside the U.S., in more than 180 countries. There are more than 200 non-U.S., non-English-language microblogging Twitter-clone sites today. If the intelligence community ignored that tsunami of real-time information, we’d call them incompetent.”

Magda Hassan
03-24-2010, 11:21 PM
DOJ Might Be Facebook-Stalking You


Submitted by Anonymous on March 23, 2010 - 10:25am.
http://www.prwatch.org/files/images/eyes1_0.jpgFacebook might be selling you out to the government.
With the help of the University of California Berkeley's Samuelson Clinic, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Electronic_Frontier_Foundation) (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Freedom_of_Information_Act) (FOIA) request for documents from the government about how they monitor and use social networking sites (http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/03/eff-posts-documents-detailing-law-enforcement) like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn to gather information for investigations. The EFF struck gold with this request, as both the IRS (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=IRS) and the Department of Justice (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Department_of_Justice) released training presentations on social networking sites. While this may seem benign, the training material from the DOJ suggests that feds go undercover on sites such as Facebook to gather information on crime.
The DOJ slide show presentation (http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/social_network/20100303__crim_socialnetworking.pdf) (pdf) also discusses how cooperative these social networking sites are in complying with requests for private data. For example, Facebook, a highly popular social networking site, was described as "often cooperative with emergency requests," while Twitter was less cooperative because they refused to preserve data without legal process.
The IRS also provided EFF with a 2009 training course (http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/social_network/training_course.pdf) (pdf) that teaches IRS employees how to use social networking sites and search engines like Google to investigate taxpayers. On the positive side, the IRS training manual prohibits IRS employees from using deception or creating fake social networking accounts to obtain information.
The DOJ slideshow on sites like Facebook is more troubling. The fact that Facebook would comply with government requests for private data without legal process is disturbing, and poses a threat to the privacy of American citizens. While the request must be an "emergency," the DOJ slideshow fails to define exactly what constitutes an "emergency request." Privacy settings on Facebook may protect users' privacy from companies and employers, but it appears to be no match for the government. More documents on monitoring social networking sites are to follow on EFF's website.
http://www.prwatch.org/node/8962