The FBI is working on an app that will create an early warning system from material scraped from social networks. According to the BBC, the application would locate possible global and local threats superimposed onto maps using mash-up technology. The FBI has already asked contractors for solutions and potential costs for the application. The FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SOIC) posted a market research request entitled, “Social Media Application” on the web on the 19th of January. The document says that social media is a primary source of intelligence and has become the premier first response tool to key events and a primal alert to developing situations.
The document says, the application should collect open source information and have the ability to “provide an automated capability of search and scrape 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 and immediately translate foreign language tweets into English”.
The bureau says that the application will help spot ‘bad actors’, people who intentionally mislead law enforcement officials and spot vulnerabilities in suspected groups. Of course, there are major privacy issues to this application and privacy campaigners have raised concerns on the matter. They say there will be a ‘dragnet effect’, which means that more people than just suspects will have their information and content under surveillance. They say that just because law enforcement has more information, it does not mean that citizens will necessarily be safer. The FBI justifies the information use of people who haven’t chosen to make their profiles or information private. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, other websites the FBI intends to monitor are YouTube, Flickr and ItsTrending.com, which is a website that shows highly shared content on Facebook.