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Software was pitched to the U.S. government, but not yet sold

Raytheon Comp. (RTN) has created a social networking tracking program called Rapid Information Overlay Technology -- or "RIOT", for short -- which is building a database of trillions of pieces of data on millions of users' social networking profiles.  The software digs into the usual suspects -- Facebook, Inc.'s (FB) ubiquitous social network, popular microblogging site Twitter, and FourSquare, whose location-aware apps boast 25 million users.

I. RIOT is Watching You

The idea of RIOT is to allow government agents to in a click or two examine both your behavior history, and more interestingly (or alarmingly) predict your potential future actions.

Today, mobile client use has finally overtaken desktop use for Facebook, the world's largest network.  But hidden in most mobile posts by Facebook's over 1 billion users is an information is an "exif" information tag, a special string that identifies the latitude and longitude the user posted from.  By mining exif data publicly available posts (or alternatively creating Facebook softbots to friend users and lure them into RIOT's circle of friendship), RIOT is capable of tracking citizens' daily movements.

In a video, Brian Urch, principle investigator on the RIOT project at Raytheon describes, "We're going to track one of our own employees."


By mining the publicly available information, the demo shows how the client determined that "Nick" commonly frequents Washington Nationals Park.  It even shows off a photo of a blonde whom Nick posed with at the park.

But RIOT's most powerful capability is trying to analyze the future.  Its spidery webs of information spread out, assessing the trends in Nick's behaviors.  It makes a discovery --  Nick goes to the gym each day at 6 a.m.

Mr Urch comments, "... So if you ever did want to try to get hold of Nick, or maybe get hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6am on a Monday."

He encourages users with questions to shoot him an email at brian.urch@raytheon.com.

II. Raytheon Fights to Keep Video Demo Secret

The video was never meant to be seen by the eyes of the public.  Raytheon asked Guardian, the top UK newspaper who obtained the video, not to post it.  Comments Raytheon's spokesperson:

Riot is a big data analytics system design we are working on 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.

Its innovative privacy features are the most robust that we're aware of, enabling the sharing and analysis of data without personally identifiable information [such as social security numbers, bank or other financial account information] being disclosed.

But Raytheon's argument that the product was "proof of concept" was not enough to convince Guardian not to post the video.  But even before the video, clues about RIOT were leaking out.  A patent application filed by Raytheon in December -- -- contained details relating to the data mining technology in the software.

Watchful eye
[Image Source: Alex's Archives]

In an interview with Guardian, Ginger McCall, an attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), complains, "Social networking sites are often not transparent about what information is shared and how it is shared.  Users may be posting information that they believe will be viewed only by their friends, but instead, it is being viewed by government officials or pulled in by data collection services like the Riot search."

III. RIOT is Even Better at Playing Big Brother Than Perfect Citizen

Raytheon, whose sales accounted for $25B USD in revenue last year, has reportedly not sold the software to any nation state clients -- yet.  It reportedly demoed the software to the U.S. government at a trade show in April.

President Obama has committed $200M USD to "big data" spending -- including efforts to track citizens online.  The Obama Administration has stated multiple times publicly that it seeks to protect citizen rights/expectations of privacy, but internally it's often fought to step up intrusive monitoring, arguing that such procedures are necessary to fight the shadowy ambiguous "terrorist" threat.

Raytheon is also authorized to export the software to foreign nations/corporations interested in using the "stalking software" on their targets, acccording to the "EAR99" designation in trade documents obtained by Guardian.  EAR99 indicates that the software can "be shipped without a [government] licence to most destinations under most circumstances."

The company already has one lucrative $100M USD counterterrorism contract from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).  Dubbed "Perfect Citizen", the NSA software aims to deploy digital "sensors" (scripts) to detect impending cyberattacks on U.S. networks.  Some privacy experts have complained that Perfect Citizen was a guise for "Big Brother" style tracking.

Obama Big Brother
President Barack Obama has pushed for $200M USD in "big data" spending.
[Image Source: Fits News]

The NSA claims "Perfect Citizen" is a research and development project, and not fully deployed.  But EPIC obtained documents that “suggest the program is operational and confirmed, and that Raytheon was contracted to develop and deploy certain components."

By contrast RIOT takes a narrower aim at popular civilian internet activities.  That means it will likely serve little use in combatting terrorists (who are unlikely to post, tweet, or "check-in" during their evil escapades).  However, it does make the perfect tool for companies -- or governments -- to stalk citizens, and Raytheon is eager to turn that interest into sweet cash.

Sources: Guardian, YouTube



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RE: The solution
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/11/2013 5:44:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The solution is simple. If you don't want others to gain access to it, don't post it on the internet.
A rather luddite statement.

Similar arguments could made about all forms of technology.

"If you don't want a fire, don't buy a product with a lithium ion battery."

"If you don't want to be killed in a car crash, don't buy a car."

Come to think of it, let's all just all deprive ourselves of modern technology because we can't handle the responsibility of fighting to keep its use responsible....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5Otla5157c

Citizens have a reasonable expectation that their government is not paying to data mine their information and track them. After all they're paying the taxes. Even if you're fine with it from a privacy perspective, do you like paying for spying on yourself and your neighbors?


RE: The solution
By Philippine Mango on 2/11/2013 6:42:02 PM , Rating: 2
difference is, facebook is a waste. even a computer game is a better use of time.


RE: The solution
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/11/2013 7:24:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
difference is, facebook is a waste. even a computer game is a better use of time.
It's probably cool to hate on FB because everyone uses it, so you're being all counterculture.

And to be fair it does have a lot of flaws (privacy... unpopular interface changes... FB stalkers... etc.)

And to be fair a lot people do waste a lot of time on it (Farmville anyone?).

BUT at the end of the day it is a hugely useful communications/networking tool.

If you're arguing communicating digitally with people is a waste of time, throw out that smartphone too, no texting!

I understand the argument, but to me it's only harmful -- like most things -- when people take its use to an extreme.


RE: The solution
By p05esto on 2/11/2013 9:34:08 PM , Rating: 2
Um no. Only nitwits have EVER posted all their lives and stupid crap on social media. It's a horrible communications medium, it's sloppy and dangerous. Never say a word on there you don't want the whole world to hear. I can't even respond any further, die social media, DIE!


RE: The solution
By JediJeb on 2/12/2013 12:32:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
BUT at the end of the day it is a hugely useful communications/networking tool. If you're arguing communicating digitally with people is a waste of time, throw out that smartphone too, no texting!


I myself prefer either a phone call or better yet face to face communications. I have been known to get up and drive 10-20 miles just to talk to someone. I do however send a text message when it is needed, but I hate to have conversations by text. It is better used as the text equivalent of a voice mail. I still haven't gotten a smart phone and I hope my RAZR last a long time so I don't have to get one soon.

As far as being a luddite, I am usually called a tech geek but there are a few things I just don't buy into. I work with tech all day long, and even in the evenings I do enjoy reading up on sites like this, but throwing my life out digitally for the world to see just does not appeal to me at all.

Something I haven't read up on that I am curious about. Is there a way to prevent the GPS data from being included on posts from a smart phone or maybe some software available to strip that information from images before you would post them? If there is, or could be, I can see a good market for something like that if this type of cyber spying becomes more public knowledge.


RE: The solution
By Ammohunt on 2/12/2013 11:30:45 AM , Rating: 2
I would have related you up if i hadn't already posted; I could not agree more. I don't have a digital relationship with the people that matter most to me i call them on the phone or visit face to face. Most everyone else counts as a professional relationship and those are contained in linked-in. Call me old fashioned...


RE: The solution
By MadMan007 on 2/11/2013 10:09:58 PM , Rating: 2
Posting a Youtube video in an article about online tracking and surveillance...well played.


RE: The solution
By Argon18 on 2/12/2013 11:38:58 AM , Rating: 2
Please excuse yourself from this discussion and let the adults discuss this.

"Citizens have a reasonable expectation that their government is not paying to data mine their information and track them. "
Um, no, they don't. Where did you get this from? The FBI has a file on every man woman a child in the US. Including you and I. Been this way for many decades.

And what about corporate big brothers doing the same? Google, for example. Do you really think Gmail is "free"? That they're doing it out of kindness, for the benefit of humanity? Lol. Of course not. They are data mining your every email, building databases and tracking your habits and preferences and behaviors.

How about cell phones? Obama has renewed and even expanded key areas of the Patriot Act, allowing for warrantless wiretapping of American's phone calls.

It is your argument that is a luddite one, if you feel "entitled" to something. In fact, these feelings of entitlement are exactly what's wrong with America today. Congrats, you are the problem.


RE: The solution
By Schrag4 on 2/14/2013 11:38:35 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Citizens have a reasonable expectation that their government is not paying to data mine their information and track them. After all they're paying the taxes. Even if you're fine with it from a privacy perspective, do you like paying for spying on yourself and your neighbors?


Again, this is just incredibly naive. Nobody LIKES the fact that their govt is spying on them, but we ALL KNOW that it's happening. The majority of people go along with it because, you know, "I've got nothing to hide so why would I care? If it will save just one life it's worth it." And so forth.

Do you really, really have any expectation, reasonable or otherwise, that the US govt isn't mining data that you post online, emails that you send, etc?


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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