CIA’s Facebook Apr06

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CIA’s Facebook

Google and Facebook are CIA fronts. They gather your info and profile everything about you. They have neat IQ quizes, know all of your favorite people and sell everything about you to anyone who has some money. We are all victims of them in the lands of the free.~Alejandro

Most people use social media like Facebook and Twitter to share photos of friends and family, chat with friends and strangers about random and amusing diversions, or follow their favorite websites, bands and television shows.

But what does the US military use those same networks for? Well, we can’t tell you: That’s “classified,” a CENTCOM spokesman recently informed Raw Story.

One use that’s confirmed, however, is the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online “personas” managed by the military. Recently the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called “persona management software.” Such a technology would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals.

These “personas” were to have detailed, fictionalized backgrounds, to make them believable to outside observers, and a sophisticated identity protection service was to back them up, preventing suspicious readers from uncovering the real person behind the account. They even worked out ways to game geolocating services, so these “personas” could be virtually inserted anywhere in the world, providing ostensibly live commentary on real events, even while the operator was not really present.

When Raw Story first reported on the contract for this software, it was unclear what the Air Force wanted with it or even if it had been acquired. The potential for misuse, however, was abundantly clear.

A fake virtual army of people could be used to help create the impression of consensus opinion in online comment threads, or manipulate social media to the point where valuable stories are suppressed.

Ultimately, this can have the effect of causing a net change to the public’s opinions and understanding of key world events.

Wired.com published an article how US spies are making investments in the Company In-Q-Tel in order to monitor your blogs and read your tweets.

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using “open source intelligence” – information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

“That’s kind of the basic step – get in and monitor,” says company senior vice president Blake Cahill.

Then Visible “scores” each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. (“Trying to determine who really matters,” as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface.

In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.

Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.

“Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” says Steven Aftergood, who tracks intelligence issues at the Federation of American Scientists. But “even if information is openly gathered by intelligence agencies it would still be problematic if it were used for unauthorized domestic investigations or operations. Intelligence agencies or employees might be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if all of the information in question is technically ‘open source.'”

Visible chief executive officer Dan Vetras says the CIA is now an “end customer,” thanks to the In-Q-Tel investment. And more government clients are now on the horizon. “We just got awarded another one in the last few days,” Vetras adds.

Tighe disputes this – sort of. “This contract, this deal, this investment has nothing to do with any agency of government and this company,” he says. But Tighe quickly notes that In-Q-Tel does have “an interested end customer” in the intelligence community for Visibile. And if all goes well, the company’s software will be used in pilot programs at that agency. “In pilots, we use real data. And during the adoption phase, we use it real missions.”

Neither party would disclose the size of In-Q-Tel’s investment in Visible, a 90-person company with expected revenues of about $20 million in 2010. But a source familiar with the deal says the In-Q-Tel cash will be used to boost Visible’s foreign languages capabilities, which already include Arabic, French, Spanish and nine other languages.

Read More HERE