Twitter, the FBI, and You
In the future, if you tweet out a photo of a hilarious, meme-tastic kitten, it might be best not to include terms like “white powder,” “dirty bomb,” or “Death to America.”
Since late January, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been asking the IT industry to help it develop an open-source social-media application that would provide a panoramic real-time picture of any “breaking event, crisis, activity, or natural disaster…in progress in the U.S. or globally,” according to statements released by the agency. Essentially, the bureau wants to crowd-source software that would data-mine Twitter and other websites to scan for—and perhaps predict—mass uprisings, criminal activity, and terror plots.
To make something like what the FBI is looking for, a programmer would have to write a script to yank content from, say, open Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds. Once the data is obtained, it can be quickly searched for key terms. The next step is “geotagging”—tying individual posts to specific geographical locations. But the app would have to deal with more than just keywords. Ideally, the FBI wants a “threat index” that combines multiple metrics such as locations, links, and networks into one waterfall search engine. Think Klout, but souped-up for the NatSec establishment.