Defence contractor devises Facebook data mining and analysis tool

By Graeme Burton
11 Feb 2013 View Comments

New software capable of dredging social media websites, mining people's social networks and "predicting their behaviour", has been developed by defence contractor Raytheon.

The software, called Rapid Information Overlay Technology (RIOT), provides what Raytheon calls "extreme-scale analytics". The company claims that it can trawl Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and other social networking websites to put together pictures of people and their personal networks. In the process, claims the company, it can also predict people's activities.

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The software can ascertain someone's friends and other connections, places they have visited via Foursquare or, often, from latitude and longitude data embedded in photographic images, according to reports.

Raytheon started work on the software in 2010 in a joint research and development project with the US government to develop a system capable of analysing "trillions of entities" dredged from the internet. As part of the deal, Raytheon has already shared the technology with the US government, although it is currently unclear what use the US government has so far made of the technology.

In a video published online by The Guardian newspaper, the company claims that the software is currently at "proof of concept" stage. In an email to the newspaper, the company said, "RIOT is a big data analytics system designed with industry, national labs and commercial partners to help turn massive amounts of data into useable information to help meet our nation's rapidly changing security needs".

The development of the software and the commercial uses it could be put to was foretold, to an extent, by venture capitalist Frédéric Filloux in a Monday Note blog post.

Filloux warned the "Facebook generation" that in the near future it might be possible even to identify the authors of anonymous online posts by analysing the writing style. In the future, he predicted, applicants for many posts might have their job applications vetted by social media monitoring software to highlight potential personality and other flaws.

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