The top intelligence bureau in the US, the FBI, plans on expanding its cyber-spying toolset by inquiring to private-sector, social-app-building companies about the feasibility of building a world-wide social-network-monitoring spy network. Their foray into social-network monitoring is no surprise of course—given that the FBI, amongst other American intelligence agencies, have been intelligence-gathering via social networks for some time. Their new system will undoubtedly increase their online spying capabilities, social-network-monitoring capabilities that have already been used to build cases and arrest warrants for over 40 noted New York gangsters. The FBI also used social-network spying to spy WikiLeaks supporters, like the case with Icelandic MP, Birgitta Jónsdóttir.
“Social media has become a primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events and the primal alert to possible developing situations,” wrote the FBI in their RFI.
The FBI quietly released a Request for Information (RFI) to the app-building public, looking for apps to monitor Facebook and Twitter—apps to “enhance [the FBI’s] techniques for collecting and sharing ‘open source’ actionable intelligence.” Private-sector contractors have until February 10 to submit their theoretical app proposals, which the FBI will turn into a secure, light-weight social network monitoring system for their Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC). “The application must have the ability to rapidly assemble critical open source information and intelligence that will allow SIOC to quickly vet, identify, and geo-locate breaking events, incidents and emerging threats”, wrote the FBI in their RFI.
The network-monitoring solutions must be able to monitor real-time information in addition to caching info for later use, link to specific global locations, and have easy-to-access information.
Proposed apps must capable of integrating into their existing social network-monitoring grid and have the ability to create “spot reports” that quickly summarize the who, what, when and where of identified incidents and threats. The geo-coordinates of the reported spy and terrorist threats must be included, so they can build a geo-political map of terrorist suspects around the world.
The information gathered on the network would need to be searchable via trending keywords as well as a myriad of other varying parameters. Apps would also have to offer powerful analytical tools, as well as quickly translate data into English.
The FBI asserted that intend to use this new network to monitor “publicly available” and “open source” information only, however many suspect the network will monitor far more than that given that US law enforcement agencies have subpoenaed both Twitter and Facebook on numerous occasions to access private user data in order to build legal cases (or detain suspects without a legal case via the Patriot Act and the new 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.