Thursday, Jul 29th, 2010
Google’s cosy relationship with the U.S. spy network has once again been thrust into the spotlight as the company is reported to have jointly invested with the CIA in an Internet monitoring project that scours Twitter accounts, blogs and websites for all sorts of information, and can also “predict the future”.
Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, has injected a sum of up to $10 million, as has In-Q-Tel – which handles investments for the CIA and the wider intelligence network – into a company called Recorded Future.
The company describes its analytics as “the ultimate tool for open-source intelligence”.
Wired’s defence analyst, Noah Schachtman, has a detailed report on the joint venture:
“…it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”
The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.”
Recorded Future “continually scans thousands of news publications, blogs, niche sources, trade publications, government web sites, financial databases and more,” according to it’s portfolio.
It sifts through millions of posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon to “assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”
It is also being integrated with Google Earth, which, as Schachtman points out in his piece, was seeded with In-Q-Tel/CIA investment. This integration will allow real time tracking of the locations of persons or groups as part of the overall intelligence dossier.
A promotional video shows the company’s real time browser-operated data mining engine at work:
Of course, Recorded Future is sold as “terrorism analysis”, however the information scouring engine clearly extends beyond that to include crime, indictments and civil court cases etc. In this context, the ability to predict “future curves” is one small step away from Minority Report policing technology. Indeed, analytics are already being used by the Memphis Police Department, whose Operation Blue CRUSH uses predictive analytics by IBM.
Recorded Future takes in vast amounts of personal information such as employment changes, personal education and family relations. The video also shows categories covering pretty much everything else, including entertainment, music and movie releases, as well as other innocuous things like patent filings and product recalls.
The news comes at the same time as revelations that the government is proposing to grant the FBI powers to force firms such as ISPs to hand over an individual’s data.
We have previously reported on Google’s intimate and long standing connections to government spy networks.
There is also no doubt that Google is one of the corporations at the forefront of the government’s drive to use cybersecurity as a pretext for restricting the openness of the Internet, having previously worked with the NSA and the CIA.
The recent scandal involving the company’s street view roaming vehicles accessing the wi-fi details of internet users and mapping their online activities has also raised serious questions over intelligence links. This latest development will only enhance those concerns.
Recorded Future also smacks of past military and intelligence projects such as Total Information Awareness and MATRIX, LifeLog and the Brain Machine Interfaces enterprise. all designed to target American citizens.