Homeland Security plots ways to spy on Americans through social media surveillance
by: J. D. Heyes
Thursday, November 22, 2012
The Constitution’s once-solid privacy protections are about to take another hit under a new Department of Homeland Security initiative to spy on Americans via social media networks – all in the name of keeping us safe, of course.
Under the ruse of collecting and analyzing “health-related data,” DHS is testing whether scanning sites like Facebook, Twitter and others “could help identify infectious disease outbreaks, bioterrorism or other public health and national security risks,” GovInfo Security reported.
The department has spent $3 million in taxpayer money on a one-year contract with Accenture Federal Services, the firm that is actually providing the online spyware. Calling it a “biosurveillance” pilot project, the department says it will involve automatically monitoring social media sites to collect and analyze “health-related data” in real time, according to John Matchette, the managing director for Accenture’s public safety division (no word on Matchette’s thoughts regarding the constitutionality of the program his firm will help facilitate).
According to the report, the software will be designed to collect health-related keywords and other information, to include medical symptoms, that show up in online postings. Machette says the data mined will be collected and analyzed in aggregate.
“The information won’t be tracked back to the individuals who posted it,” he claimed, mindful of the constitutional issues surrounding such an operation.
Privacy advocates aren’t buying it, however.