Big Brother and Big Data

Posted by admin updated on 13 Sep, 2011

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that US government intelligence agencies are putting big money into social media and big data analytics in order to track people’s online behavior.
Not surprisingly, the federal government is interested in low-cost methods for tracking people’s every move on the Internet. The intelligence agencies have jumped in to fund analytics startups. They are also building their own analytics tools. Two years ago the National Security Agency talked publicly about creating a new type of technology that would grab “essentially every kind of data there is.” In July, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s R&D arm, issued a Social Media in Strategic Communication proposal that called for $42 million to go toward better social networking analysis. The idea is to track the spread of ideas on networks such as Facebook, find people participating in “persuasion campaigns,” and develop countermeasures. “We must eliminate our current reliance on a combination of luck and unsophisticated manual methods,” the agency said.
In the decade since the 9/11 attacks, various attempts to leverage analytics in the service of national security have been reported. There was a US Senate Judiciary committee hearing in 2007 entitled “Balancing Privacy and Security: The Privacy Implications of Government Data Mining Programs”. Some people remain skeptical about the viability of predictive modeling to predict outcomes such as terrorist incidents given the lack of historical data. The committee noted consensus as to the value of methods such as link analysis and ‘predicate-based analytics’.

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