Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The fishbowl

If you're into social media and designing applications (and helping los federales to spy on the citizenry), the FBI has the perfect free-lance job opportunity for you.

How would you like to design an app that could search social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter and allow users to compile information on domestic and international terrorism?

The FBI's Strategic Information and Operations Center (SOIC) posted its "Social Media Application" market research request onto the web on 19 January, and it was subsequently flagged up by New Scientist magazine. 
The document says: "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." 
It says the application should collect "open source" information and have the ability to: 
  • Provide an automated search and scrape capability of social networks including Facebook and Twitter.
  • Allow users to create new keyword searches.
  • Display different levels of threats as alerts on maps, possibly using colour coding to distinguish priority. Google Maps 3D and Yahoo Maps are listed among the "preferred" mapping options.
  • Plot a wide range of domestic and global terror data.
  • Immediately translate foreign language tweets into English.

Sure, when you post something online it's out there for the whole world to see. But, so many of these social network sites function more like a cocktail party or a backyard bbq. You and your circle of (mostly) virtual friends chat and comment about this or that - until your eye is drawn to the next shiny object.

What has happened to our right to be left alone? As Scott Greenfield points out, on the internet you don't know if you're talking to a dog -- or a terrorist, or at least someone los federales have their eyes on. How does it feel to know you might just get dragged into an investigation? How does it feel to know that you might find yourself under suspicion because of a tweet?

Of course you know that everything changed on 9/11. Now we're all under suspicion. Now the government needs to be able to monitor all our communications lest someone say something that might be a little bit controversial. The same tools that we have hailed for making our world smaller and allowing us to connect with more people are being used to keep an eye on us.

How does it feel to be the fish?

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