Everybody :-) - Big Brother's watching (your blog)!

22 October 2009

An outfit called In-Q-Tel in Arlington, Virginia, founded in 1999, is known to be a semi-independent but private aspect of the US intelligence community which invests in tech companies that do things deemed strategically useful. Practically all of those things are on the cutting edge of commercial technology for the time. They say as much on their website, in case you're wondering if I've been listening to a little too much Coast to Coast AM lately. Their latest investment project is a most interesting one, a company called Visible Technologies which develop software to monitor social activities on the global Net. Their software snarfs down content from Flickr, Twitter, and just about every other major social networking site out there that you can post information to, analyzes it, and uses that information to tell their customers how they can best leverage those services for online advertising, keep an eye on acceptance, and generally figure out the opinion that people hold of whatever it is that they do or sell. This is, when you think about it a little, not too different from the collection of OSINT, or open-source intelligence data.

Visible Technologies' software then determines based upon keywords provided by the client whether the buzz online is positive or negative toward something, of mixed opinion, or of a neutral stance. Analysts can then read the posts/articles/onomatopoeia in question, write notes, tag them, and send them elsewhere for more scrutiny. Donald Tighe, mouthpiece for Visible Technologies, has gone on the record as saying that In-Q-Tel wants them to concentrate primarily on foreign social media and act as an early warning system in case fecal matter has been hurled in the general direction of the United States' air circulation system. It is, it should be noted, not a secret that Visible Technologies has been watching social media within CONUS for such corporations as Dell, Hormel, and Microsoft. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists was quoted as saying that “Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” and he's absolutely right. If you post something on the Net everyone can see it, for good or for ill. It is said that the money from the investment will be put toward improving the foreign language capabilities of Visible Technologies' TruVoice system, and probably the others not mentioned in the article.

Does anyone have any idea of what their web crawler's user agent string looks like in server logs?