The Inquirer-Home

Defence software predicts users' movements via social media

System was not supposed to be revealed
Mon Feb 11 2013, 16:57
An eye in close-up superimposted by a screen of random numbers

US DEFENCE FIRM Raytheon has secretly developed a security software application that can predict people's future movements by correlating their updates to online social networks.

The software application, dubbed Rapid Information Overlay Technology (RIOT), was unearthed by The Guardian when it obtained a video made by the firm. The video details how the software rummages through extensive amounts of user data collected from Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to build profiles.

Raytheon wasn't immediately available when we contacted it for comment, but according to The Guardian, Raytheon did not want the video to be revealed as the product was a "proof of concept".

It seems that the link to the video in The Guardian report is no longer valid, but from what the Guardian reported, the RIOT system can acquire a snapshot of a person's life, such as their family, friends and where they have travelled, in a matter of seconds.

The video is narrated by Raytheon's principal investigator Brian Urch, who uses one of the firm's own employees called "Nick" as an example to demonstrate how the RIOT system works. Urch brings up pictures of Nick with information gathered from social networks and quickly reveals photographs of him posing with a blonde haired woman.

"We know where Nick's going, we know what Nick looks like," Urch says. "Now we want to try to predict where he may be in the future."

The RIOT system can then display on a spider diagram associations and relationships between individuals online by looking at who they have communicated with over Twitter.

Raytheon later told the newspaper that its Big Data analytics system will "turn massive amounts of data into useable information to help meet our nation's rapidly changing security needs".

Raytheon claimed it has not sold the RIOT system to any clients, but it did, however, acknowledge that the technology was shared with the US government in 2010 as part of joint research effort to aid the building of a national security system capable of analysing "trillions of entities" online.

There's no news as to whether this software application will become available for use in a mainstream capacity any time soon, but according to records published by the US government's trade controls department, the technology has been given a "EAR99" item classificaation under export regulations, meaning it "can be shipped without a licence to most destinations under most circumstances".

If you haven't done so already, perhaps it's not too soon to tighten your social network privacy settings. µ


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