January 27, 2012

FBI Seeks New Tool For Social Media Monitoring

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking information from private industry about new ways to mine social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to help develop an early-warning system.

In a formal “Request for Information” (RFI) published last week, the agency asked information technology contractors about the feasibility of creating a tool that would "enhance its techniques for collecting and sharing 'open source' actionable intelligence."

The system should also provide information about possible domestic and global threats superimposed onto maps "using mash-up technology.”

The open request, which was first reported by New Scientist magazine, was posted January 19 at FedBizOpps.gov, a government website that offers federal business opportunities.

"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," the RFI read.

"Intelligence analysts will often use social media to receive the first tip-off that a crisis has occurred.”

The FBI said it is seeking an "open source and social media alert, mapping and analysis application solution" for its Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC).

The new tool "must have the ability to rapidly assemble critical open source information and intelligence that will allow SIOC to quickly vet, identity, and geo-locate breaking events, incidents and emerging threats.”

The system must be able to "instantly search and monitor key words and strings in all 'publicly available' tweets across the Twitter site and any other 'publicly available' social networking sites/forums."

It must also be fully capable of searching data “across a myriad of parameters and view terrorist activities by location, terrorist group, and type of attack and see trends and analytics,” and “immediately translate into English, tweets and any other open forum publicly available social media captured in a foreign language."

Additional requirements for the new tool include the ability to display threats as alerts on maps, with Google Maps 3D and Yahoo Maps being the "preferred" mapping options, and to plot a wide variety of domestic and global terror data.

Interested parties have until February 10 to submit their responses, including estimated cost/pricing, to the FBI.

The agency says the data collected by the system would be used to help predict the likely behavior of "bad actors", to detect cases of deliberate misleading of law enforcement, and to identify the vulnerabilities of suspected terror groups.

The FBI´s request comes just three weeks after the Department of Homeland Security released a report about the privacy implications of monitoring social media sites, saying it supported the principle of using any information that users have provided and not chosen to make private.

"Information posted to social media websites is publicly accessible and voluntarily generated. Thus the opportunity not to provide information exists prior to the informational post by the user," the DHS report read.

The document listed specific websites that DHS planned to monitor, including YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and many prominent news sites.  The report also highlighted specific words the agency would search for, such as "gangs", "small pox", "leak", "recall" and "2600" - an apparent reference to the hacking-focused magazine.


On the Net: