Spooky investments

02 Aug 2012

Got a great business idea that’s even better than Facebook? Developed a new technology even handier than an internet-enabled fridge? Or invented a gadget so earth-shattering that it makes Lakeland’s “pineapple slicer and wedger” and “make your own sausage kit” seem trivial? Then the CIA might just want to hear from you.

For more than a decade now, the CIA has been running its own venture capital firm. Called In-Q-Tel – named after “Q” from the James Bond films – it was set up because the cost of developing exciting new ways of spying on, maiming and killing people had become too expensive for taxpayers to fund on their own.

In-Q-Tel claims that much of the technology surrounding touch screens and many other now-everyday gadgets and technologies are all thanks to early-stage funding from the US secret services’ own VC firm. It also claims to be behind the mapping technology that formed the nucleus of Google Earth.

Today, it’s working on holographic displays, software that can automatically detect “suspicious behaviour” online, and cyber security – although it’s not clear whether that is to defend against online attacks or to help perpetrate them in even more dastardly ways.

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