In the 2005 movie V For Vendetta, a film about a totalitarian society ruled by a fascist government with an iron surveillance fist, there’s a scene where state spooks drive down a residential street with a gadget that records the conversations people are having inside their homes and gives them a rating on how antagonistic towards the authorities they are.
A frighteningly similar scenario is now on the horizon with the news that the CIA’s investment arm In-Q-Tel is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a company that monitors the output of social media, in order to “Read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon,” reports Wired News.
Of course, the fact that the U.S. government and the military have been overloading the Internet with pro-war propaganda and trolls who are paid to cheerlead for the war on terror and attack critics is an admitted part of their cyberwarfare agenda, and Israel has done the same.
However, the prospect of the CIA closely monitoring social networking websites, whose content largely comprises of inane gossip and sophomoric blabber, shows just how afraid the establishment is of rising popular opposition to their agenda.
“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. Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords,” according to Wired.
The software scores whether each post is positive, neutral or negative on a particular topic and can judge who the most influential poster is in a conversation, for example on a comment board or forum.
According to In-Q-Tel, it wants to use the technology to see how international issues are playing out in foreign media, but as the report notes, “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.”
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists warns that the software could be used to track and target critics of the government, as well as political figures and journalists.
“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,” Aftergood told Wired.
Visible chief executive officer Dan Vetras said that the CIA was just one of several government clients that were using the technology and that more were on the horizon.
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