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US Intelligence Mining Your Social Network Data 240

bs0d3 writes "U.S. Intelligence has hired social scientists to mine the vast resources of the Internet — Web searches and Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, the digital location trails generated by billions of cellphones. They intend to use this info to track sociological laws of human behavior — enabling them to predict political crises, revolutions and other forms of social and economic instability. Privacy advocates are deeply skeptical of the project, saying it reminds them of Total Information Awareness, a 9/11 Pentagon program that proposed hunting for potential attackers by identifying patterns in vast collections of public and private data: telephone calling records, e-mail, travel data, visa and passport information, and credit card transactions. In a recent budget proposal, the defense agency argues that its analysis can expose terrorist cells and other groups by tracking their meetings, rehearsals and sharing of material and money transfers."
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US Intelligence Mining Your Social Network Data

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  • So I purposely write posts knowing that they're doing it and designed to further any agenda *I* might have.

    Occupy Wall Street everywhere in America!! :D

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:03PM (#37693154) Homepage Journal

    He who mines my social network date mines garbage.

    except my slashdot journals, which are pure gold as to the utter stinker I am

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      How naive.

      What garbage? why garbage? why did this 'garbage' be with this times posting? how do we separate the garbage? is normal posting of garbage that suddenly changes an indicator of a larger social trend.

      Are you really so simple you can't find the value in mass trend and adoptions?

  • Shocking! (Score:5, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:04PM (#37693158) Journal

    I am shocked, SHOCKED that this is happening! Who would have thought that the same people behind CARNIVORE and ECHELON would make such dastardly use of the vast quantities of publicly available information!

    • I naively thought that John "Iran-Contra" Poindexter was just going to fade away after his too-creepy-even-for-congress TIA [] project was cancelled...
      • If you like that badge you should check out some of the secret project badges for the various spy satellites.

  • Does it really count as "news" if anyone with two brain cells says "well, duh" when they hear about it? It would absolutely shock me (and I wouldn't believe it anyways) if I found out ther weren't doing this. And "privacy concerns"? If it's on the Internet, by definition it isn't private.

    Also, no one in the government gives a shit what most /.'ers are doing (at least individually: collectively is a little different), sorry tinfoil hatters.

  • ...before the next economic disaster begins and society freaks.

    Oh, wait.

  • Some people are aware of this and are genuinely concerned. I'm probably going to get down-modded for this but as a concerned programmer, I made a website called truefriender [] specifically for this reason. I just have no idea how to tell everyone about it without sounding like a spam-bot. It is worthwhile to check out if you're concerned.
  • Bomb (Score:4, Funny)

    by vvaduva ( 859950 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:15PM (#37693334)

    So now I am not allowed to say "bomb" online? Bomb bomb bomb...bomb bomb bomb bomb!!

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      Dude, you should use strong encryption when posting such things online!


    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Says who? WTF do you even base the comment on? Yes there scanning the data looking for sociological trends, not looking for the word bomb.


    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Sung to "Barbara Ann":

      Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran
      Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb,
      Bomb Iran
      Let's take a stand
      Bomb Iran
      Our country's got a feelin'
      Really hit the ceilin', bomb Iran
      Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran

      Went to a mosque, gonna throw some rocks
      Tell the Ayatollah, "Gonna put you in a box!"
      Bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb,
      Bomb Iran
      Our country's got a feelin'
      Really hit the ceilin', bomb Iran
      Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran

  • Remember Smokey the bear, the adorable bear who became the public face of anti-forest-fire programs?

    Well, I think we need a new bear, for a new time, to prevent terror by reading lots and lots of facebook accounts: Pedobear, of course!
  • Pretty soon, they'll be monitoring our online blog posts. Now excuse me, there's someone knocking at my door *really* loud.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

    People post information with public access on the internet and expect intelligence agencies to not use that information?

  • Last one to the Time Vault is a rotten robot!

  • What else are you gonna do with access to those several tens of Petabytes of data?

    Aside from that, as commented in an earlier post, how long is the vast array of Darket toolage going to survive if more and more people start using it? I'm referring of course, to things like Tor, Freenet and to get to real basics, file transfer via Skype or to go to the other extreme, Collab software such as CovEn.

  • a lot of interesting social behavior will be revealed.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:32PM (#37693534)

    I'm too busy laughing hysterically at the very aspect that anyone thought this was "new" news in any way. What exactly do you think our intelligence agencies have been doing for a very long time now. I find it rather pathetic they had to hire "social scientists" to do this would think they've had enough practice at data mining by now.

    OK, now I'm laughing at the concept of a few million being handed to this group of "social scientists" who are busy right now watching YouTube videos on how to extract information from Facebook accounts...Oh, look! I think one of them just found the UK privacy law "loophole"...shortcut!

    • You don't see how social science comes into this?

      Okay... so you don't need social scientists because you're *so good* at mining electronic data... but they're already mining the data electronically, as stated in TFA.

      The automated data collection system is to focus on patterns of communication, consumption and movement of populations. It will use publicly accessible data, including Web search queries, blog entries, Internet traffic flow, financial market indicators, traffic webcams and changes in Wikipedia entries.

      What do you do with that data? How do you determine what data to collect and how to use it? Assuredly no one has expertise in this field because you don't explicitly understand it. Who do you think actually uses data?

  • Yawn...Who profits the most? The contractor doing the work, I think.
  • obviously this is completely unconstitutional, not authorized to the federal government of USA under the Constitution, violates all sorts of rights, from freedom of speech to illegal searches and presumption of innocence just to throw in there as well.

    That's why government needs to be cut.

    Ron Paul 2012.

    • obviously this is completely unconstitutional, not authorized to the federal government of USA under the Constitution, violates all sorts of rights, from freedom of speech to illegal searches and presumption of innocence just to throw in there as well.

      That's why government needs to be cut.

      Ron Paul 2012.

      Yes, doing web searches, looking at your Twitter posts, Facebook updates, and blog posts... all that public data! How dare they look at publicly available data and put computers to use sorting it!

      In other news, /. readers shocked to find out that the technology, known as a web crawler, has been around since the early 1990's and nobody told them.

      • US federal government is not authorized to take such steps, it is not authorized and thus it is not allowed to do so. You should watch this. []

        • I'm sorry, but that's a view only taken by people that think the government can't only do specific authorized acts. That's completely untrue. That's why there are constitutional amendments telling the government specifically what it can not do. Other's tell government what specific parts are responsible for what.

          But if you are under the impression that it can't do something because it's not specifically told to do it... well, then you're living a libertarian fantasy. That is not reality. That is not how

          • No, obviously gov't does whatever it wants to do, that's the problem - that it doesn't adhere to the law and nobody holds it accountable.

            As to the video - it's a prediction video, it's only about 20 months after 9/11 and it has the predictions for the things that were coming and they came true - total surrender of your liberties.

  • I wonder what their Prime Radiant looks like.

  • by Bitmanhome ( 254112 ) <bitman&pobox,com> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:47PM (#37693732)

    Everyone is mining your social network data.

    • by Xugumad ( 39311 )

      This is a fair point. Of the people mining my social network data, I think governments (yours, mine, whatever) are the least of my problems.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I am not paranoid. I know that I am being followed.

  • The things you put on the internet are there for the whole world to see.

  • IIRC, TIA was just a rename of the previous version. We already have 100% warrentless wiretapping, or at least the Narus gear is in place to do it, and has been for awhile - pictures of some of it were even linked here at one point.

    Of course, these are the actions not of a government that loves its people, it's the actions of one afraid of its people, but determined not to allow anything like an "American Spring" to take place by nipping it in the bud before any momentum can gather.

    It could almost be use

  • I have to admit I find these attempts to predict behavior and find patterns in social data to be kind of interesting. Teaching machines to scan faces and detect various types of intent... neat. Might never work well, but the attempt attracts my curiosity.

    Yeah, I'm evil and wiping myself with the Constitution and burning the flag and whatnot. So be it. Doesn't matter. I'm a misanthrope to the point where I'd sell the entire lot of you out to aliens at the first opportunity.

  • I just hope there is one Hari Seldon among all those social scientists...
  • The Pentagon has budgeted $42M for the expressed purposes of monitoring and influencing social media for the following:
    "1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and
    (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
    2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social mediasites and communities.
    3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.
    4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations."

    I posted this back in August.

  • They're looking for intelligence on Facebook? That should keep them searching for a while :-)
  • Content "creation" and being able to validate whatever information is said to have been collected by "authorities" when you face any kind of inquiry is critically important. Can you prove it was me, can you prove it wasn't cracked credentials, can you prove this data wasn't fabricate, etc. There are all kinds of concerns here. No, the controls on all of this data is quite loose at best.
  • They'll learn as much about my ideas by reading my blog of googling my name as they will digging through my social media posts. That's a lot easier and would cost a lot less.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @03:51PM (#37694696)

    Seriously, when you speak and do things in public, people are going to analyze you.

    A friend of mine wrote an IRC bot to monitor channels and then derive information from it.

    Later, I rewrote it with lessons learned included from the previous version.

    By the time it was done, pretty much no one was capable of fooling the bot regardless of how you tried, it could identify any user any the channel based on about 20 to 30 sentences minimum of conversation with them, regardless of how they tried to fake their identity, (nick/host/server changes meant essentially nothing to the bot, and it was trained fairly well on detecting based on conversation after we got around 10 million lines of conversation or so recorded.

    It was SIMPLE by any standard, and it was fun as shit to see new ways to pick out patterns in conversations, made it easy to find sleeper agents as well (bots or relays to others used for nefarious purposes). Sometimes lurking gives more information than talking ;)

    Anyway, this isn't new, its just on a larger scale due to being able to computerize the process. People, ALL PEOPLE, do this very thing naturally all the time subconsciously, like it or not. We've evolved to constantly analyze events in our lives, especially people. Slashdot's Friend/Foe system? Same thing, except you give it direct feedback.

    If you don't like people knowing something, don't tell them about, which you know, is kind of THE FUCKING POINT BEHIND SOCIAL NETWORKING. The whole damn concept behind these sites, and THEY TELL YOU WHEN YOU SIGN UP is to associate yourself and your actions with others like you and your associates. How do you think Facebook, MySpace and Google+ come up with 'new friends' ... ITS THE SAME DAMN THING.

    The POINT of social networking is so that YOU and OTHERS can do this sort of thing SPECIFICALLY.

  • I'm just thinking of the response when the N.Y.Times requests a Freedom of Information Act on the public comings and goings of Michelle Bachmann []. I can almost see the N.Y.Times reporters eyes crossing when they try to make sense of it; it could almost be construed as "Cruel and Unusual."
  • by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @04:14PM (#37694988) Journal

    Let's see the gov try and figure that one out.

  • let me get this straight - now the government is actually paying people whose job description is to sit around on Facebook all day? And we're still trying to cut programs that benefit society...
  • "We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms of civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become" and "The needs of society must come before the needs of the individual" -- Benito Mussolini
  • When you see people in the street being able to organize, chant slogans, use wireless communications devices, stay calm, listen, and maybe do a little bit. When you see a disheveled mob in the street screaming for food you supposedly should have acted at least 10 days ago.

    You would think they know this without expensive studies.

  • by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @06:03PM (#37696050) Journal

    U.S. Intelligence has hired social scientists to mine the vast resources of the Internet

    Just a point, stop calling them "social scientists", they are not scientists, and it degrades the value of hard science of myself and others here that went to university for.

  • In a recent budget proposal, the defense agency argues that its analysis can expose terrorist cells and other groups by tracking their meetings, rehearsals and sharing of material and money transfers."

    Al Queda did none of those things. So why? To track unruly citizens, of course. Not the flow of cash to the Caymans, either - no one is interested in that.

  • Nothing new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by E.I.A ( 2303368 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @09:09PM (#37697352) Homepage Journal
    You might consider InQtel [] and Visible Technologies [], both which fit this article's description, and have had tons of CIA seed money put into them. We know the pentagon has a sock-puppet program, and whatever law prevent them from operating in the US can be bypassed through private contractors hence (perhaps) Fusion Centers. [] Both the FBI and DHS are quite busy here too. I frequently observe FBI, .mil,, DoD, and other government IPs visiting my website and subscribing to comments. Do a whois on my latest visitor: ~~ And yeah, go right ahead and mod this as "troll" too. Bloody snobs!

Air is water with holes in it.