Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Secret Raytheon Software is a Search Engine For Spying on Social Media Activity

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, February 14 2013

Screengrab from a video obtained by the Guardian, of a Raytheon employee demonstrating the uses of RIOT.

Earlier this week The Guardian broke the news that US-based defense contractor and security firm Raytheon has developed software over the past two years that can comprehensively track activity across social media platforms.  Across the web, people have weighed in on how this “Google for spies” will affect the future of surveillance – and the US government’s infiltration of the lives of foreign citizens. 

A video obtained by the Guardian shows a Raytheon staff member demonstrating the uses of the RIOT platform – that’s Rapid Information Overlay Technology – by following the online activity of a fellow employee.  It all seems innocuous enough, as he maps geodata from Facebook check-ins at the gym and iPhone selfies at a baseball stadium, based on location coordinates in the photos’ metadata. 

But RIOT can build prediction models based on this information – essentially giving whoever gets their hands on this technology the power to anticipate the movements of tracked individuals.  The Guardian noted that this flips popularized notion of social media as a democratic tool on its head, “[demonstrating] how the same social networks that helped propel the Arab Spring revolutions can be transformed…and tapped as a means of monitoring and control.”

Exactly who will be able to use this technology is currently a matter of speculation.  Raytheon says it has not yet sold the software to any clients, though it was developed as a joint venture with the US government back in 2010. This prompts the assumption that, like the drone program, RIOT could someday constitute another arm of covert American surveillance and control over international parties.  An article from France’s Nouvel Observateur (the title: “How Washington Is Spying On You”) noted today that the software could be put to use in the American crackdown on cyber warfare.  This is an effort that could unnecessarily track the geodata of potential millions of innocent citizens in Russia and China, as well as in countries with smaller levels of hacking activity, like Israel and France. 

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

GO

wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

More