by Steve Watson
Jul 29, 2010
Search Company's ties to spy agency in
spotlight again over real time Internet monitoring
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
Wired's defense analyst, Noah Schachtman, has a
detailed report on the joint
"...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
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."
"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
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,
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
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 cyber-security 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
Total Information Awareness and MATRIX,
LifeLog and the
Interfaces enterprise. all designed to target American citizens.