FBI asks companies to develop software for monitoring social media to predict crimes

Saturday, January 28, 2012
By Paul Martin

27th January 2012

The FBI is to use automated scanners to monitor people’s posts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, it has emerged this week – and privacy campaigners have described it as an attack on free speech.

The agency is looking for companies to build it software that will scan social networks for ‘danger’ words – and agents will respond to ‘breaking news, incidents and emerging threats’.

Agents will be able to see people’s tweets on a map – and could use the software to ‘predict’ crimes.

The paper calling for companies to get involved seems to suggest that the agency will use software to target individuals – ‘bad actors’ – and to build up maps of areas where ‘wrongdoing’ erupts.

The move has horrified privacy and free speech campaigners. Jennifer Lynch, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told New Scientist: ‘The internet gives people a sense of freedom to say what they want without worrying too much about recourse.

‘But these tools that mine open source data, and presumably store it for a very long time, do away with that kind of privacy. I worry about the effect of that on free speech in the U.S.’

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