San Francisco : Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers a keynote during the Facebook f8 Developer Conference at the San Francisco Design Center. (AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino)
The FBI has got tired of monitoring social media sites manually and wants to reinvent the process. So, soon your posts may instantly light up on a map as a big red dot if considered suspicious, marking the location of the ‘bad actor.’
“Social media has become a primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events and the primal alert to possible developing situations,” says the Request for Information published by FBI on January 19.
The FBI’s ‘market research’ shows that the bureau is planning to monitor all ‘publicly available’ data on social media sites through a new game-changing system.
The bureau is looking for a company which is interested in and capable of building such a system and has published a list of requirements for it.
The enquiry says that the system should provide an automated search and scrape capability of both social networking sites and open source news sites for breaking events, crises, and threats that meet the search parameters defined by the FBI.
It should also be capable of automated filtering of the data and of providing the operator with instant notification of breaking events and emerging threats.
The FBI places strong emphasis on the fact that the system should access only ‘publicly available’ data, taking every occurrence of this phrase in quotes throughout the whole document.
But most people do not realize that the data they are sharing with their friends on social networking sites is in fact publicly available.
The average user believes that only a narrow circle of close friends and relatives are reading his or her blog, and this gives them “the sense of freedom to say what they want without worrying too much about recourse,” says Jennifer Lynch at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as cited by newscientist.com. “But these tools that mine open source data and presumably store it for a very long time do away with that kind of privacy. I worry about the effect of that on free speech in the US.”
All the collected data will be stored in the FBI database and conveniently displayed on a map upon request (by the way, FBI prefers Google, ESRI, and Yahoo maps to any other service). Of course the functionality of the map will be increased beyond the limits set for the common user.
The interactive map will have additional layers, such as US domestic and worldwide terror data, US embassies and military installations around the world, weather conditions and forecasts, and video feeds from surveillance and traffic cameras.
The revelation of the FBI’s ‘market research’ raises even more concerns about the aspects of private data safety on the Internet, as more and more data about the users is being collected and stored – for different reasons – in numerous databases around the globe.
Collecting the information in not a challenge anymore, but analyzing the data is. But there are companies, for example Google, which can crack such a problem.
Recently Google announced plans to bring all data collected from users’ separate accounts on its sites into a combined profile. Google is seeking ways of creating a simpler product experience and providing better services to its clients. But that move has triggered a lot of outrage and raised more questions about privacy on the Internet.