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FBI needs mapping app to monitor social networking sites

US: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US raised eyebrows in the tech world with a public document that asks for advice on how to harvest information from social networking sites. According to the document, the bureau is looking for a mapping app — or a “geospatial alert and analysis mapping application” — that, among other things, helps it search “publicly available” sources like Facebook and Twitter for national security threats. Some other items on the FBI’s functionality wish list include:- Instant notifications of breaking events, incidents, and emerging threats that have been vetted and meet the defined search parameters.- Ability to immediately access geospatial maps that plot US Domestic terrorist data; global terrorist data; US Embassy, consulate and military installations around the world; weather conditions and forecasts; and video feeds from traffic cameras.  – Ability to instantly search and monitor key words and strings in all ‘publicly available’ tweets across the Twitter Site and any other ‘publicly available’ social networking sites/forums (i .e. Facebook, MySpace, etc.).- Ability to immediately translate into English, tweets and any other open forum publicly available social media captured in a foreign language.- Ability to geo-locate the open source social media ‘search’ by setting a radius by both miles and kilometres (i.e. 5 miles, 10 miles, 50 miles radius) that will allow the user to quickly narrow the search to a specific area/region/location.- The ability to geospatially locate bad actors or groups and analyse their movements, vulnerabilities, limitations, and possible adverse actions.- The ability to develop pattern-of-life matrices to support law enforcement planning and enforcement operations.- Reference documents such as a dictionary of ‘tweet’ lingo.
The FBI also specified that it wants to use the app to “predict future actions taken by bad actors.” According to Sean Gourley, that involves creating profiles of known bad actors based on their social media presence. Gourley has worked with defence agencies in the past and now heads the intelligence firm Quid.
The FBI clarified, “The application will not focus on specific persons or protected groups, but on words that relate to ‘events’ and ‘crisis,’ and activities constituting violations of federal criminal law or threats to national security.”
Then there’s the question of why the FBI — an agency that’s usually reluctant when it comes to sharing its social media tactics — would publicly lay out its intelligence-gathering plans and then ask for civilian help in executing them. Gourley theorizes that it has something to do with the fact that these days it’s easier to find qualified mathematics Ph.D.’s in Silicon Valley than it is to find them in the federal government.
“What that means is the top solutions to these kinds of problems don’t actually lie within the government anymore; they actually start to lie in the startup companies,” Gourley added. “So increasingly the government starts to turn to these groups to say, ‘Can you help us solve these types of problems?’ “
Source: www.npr.org