cosy relationship with the U.S. spy network has once again been
thrust into the spotlight as the company is reported to have
jointly invested with the CIA in an Internet monitoring project
that scours Twitter accounts, blogs and websites for all sorts
of information, and can also "predict the future".
Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, has injected
a sum of up to $10 million, as has In-Q-Tel - which handles
investments for the CIA and the wider intelligence network -
into a company called Recorded
The company describes its analytics as "the ultimate tool
for open-source intelligence".
Wired's defence analyst, Noah Schachtman, has a detailed
report on the joint venture:
"...it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and
Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people,
organizations, actions and incidents — both present
and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its
temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search”
by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between
documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and
The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved,
where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future
then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum”
for any given event."
Recorded Future "continually scans thousands of news publications,
blogs, niche sources, trade publications, government web sites,
financial databases and more," according to it's portfolio.
It sifts through millions of posts and conversations taking
place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon to "assemble
actual real-time dossiers on people."
It is also being integrated with Google Earth, which, as Schachtman
points out in his piece, was seeded with In-Q-Tel/CIA investment.
This integration will allow real time tracking of the locations
of persons or groups as part of the overall intelligence dossier.
A promotional video shows the company's real time browser-operated
data mining engine at work:
Of course, Recorded Future is sold as "terrorism analysis",
however the information scouring engine clearly extends beyond
that to include crime, indictments and civil court cases etc.
In this context, the ability to predict "future curves"
is one small step away from Minority Report policing technology.
Indeed, analytics are already being used by the Memphis Police
Department, whose Operation
Blue CRUSH uses predictive analytics by IBM.
Recorded Future takes in vast amounts of personal information
such as employment changes, personal education and family relations.
The video also shows categories covering pretty much everything
else, including entertainment, music and movie releases, as
well as other innocuous things like patent filings and product
The news comes at the same time as revelations that the government
is proposing to grant
the FBI powers to force firms such as ISPs to hand
over an individual's data.
There is also no doubt that Google is one of the corporations
at the forefront of the government’s drive to use cybersecurity
as a pretext for restricting
the openness of the Internet, having previously
worked with the NSA and the CIA.
The recent scandal involving the company's street view roaming
the wi-fi details of internet users and mapping
their online activities has also raised serious questions over
intelligence links. This latest development will only enhance