SurveillanceFBI seeks system to monitor social networking sites

Published 10 February 2012

The FBI, seeking to monitor conversations on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, recently placed a request for information from technology companies to develop a system capable of automatically sifting through the torrents of “publicly available” data for keywords relating to terrorism, crime, and other matters of national security

FBI developing social media monitoring system // Source: indiafry.com

The FBI is the latest in a long line of federal agencies seeking to monitor conversations on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The bureau recently placeda request for information from technology companies to develop a system capable of automatically sifting through the torrents of “publicly available” data for keywords relating to terrorism, crime, and other matters of national security.

The agency’s goal is to create an early-warning system that can provide real-time open source intelligence that will improve “the FBI’s overall situational awareness.” According to the bureau’s request for information, the proposed system must  “have the ability to rapidly assemble critical open source information and intelligence that will allow SIOC to quickly vet, identify, and geo-locate breaking events, incidents, and emerging threats.”

Other federal agencies like DARPA, the Defense Department’s advanced research arm have also sought to develop social media monitoring capabilities, but unlike DOD and the CIA, which focus on foreign threats, the FBI’s attention is primarily on domestic surveillance.

In an effort to mollify concerns over privacy, the FBI was careful to note that it only seeks to analyze publicly available data – information that is already being used by marketers and advertisers.

Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney of the Electronic Freedom Frontier, is worried, despite the agency’s assurances.

Most people who use social media expect that only their friends and followers are reading their posts, which Lynch said, give them “the sense of freedom to say what they want without worrying too much about recourse, 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 U.S.”

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