Big Brother is watching Facebook and Twitter [New Scientist]

21 June 2012 by Jim Giles

The US government wants to monitor activity on social networks to get hints of political unrest

SATIRICAL newspaper The Onion recently described Facebook as a project of the Central Intelligence Agency…

…The scenario is not that far from the truth.  Facebook has close to a billion users, many of whom post daily updates on their thoughts and feelings.  The same thing happens on Twitter.  Foursquare users share information about their location.  Commentators on news sites express opinions and outrage.  And, as a New Scientist review of procurement requests shows, the US government is keen to take advantage of what amounts to a society of self-surveillance…

…officials at the Department of State issued a procurement notice on 1 June asking software developers to submit bids for a contract to supply tools that provide “deep analysis of topics, conversations, networks, and influencers of the global social web”.  These tools will analyse conversations taking place in at least seven foreign languages, including Chinese and Arabic.

Once the bids are in, the software systems will undergo a six-month trial in which they will examine online reaction to a specific event, such as a talk given by a US ambassador.

The military is even further along with such plans.  In 2007, the US air force awarded defence giant Lockheed Martin a $27 million contract to develop the Web Information Spread Data Operations Module, or WISDOM, which analyses posts made to news forums, blogs and social media.  Military analysts are already using it to monitor Central and South America and the Pacific region.  Lockheed Martin is now upgrading WISDOM with a $9 million contract from the navy, which wants to “understand the latest regional trends and sentiment and predict threats from groups and individuals”.

Other departments have similar plans – the FBI is talking to software vendors, and the Department of Homeland Security already has a monitoring system up and running…

…repeated attempts by New Scientist to obtain comments from the Department of State were met with silence.

Excerpted by Zuo Shou

Article link here, at New Scientist online

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