Riot Is Like Google For Creepers
February 12, 2013

Riot: Like Google For Creepers

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Recently, British news site The Guardian obtained a video from Massachusetts-based  defense contractor Raytheon showing off a software they call “Riot,” or Rapid Information Overlay Technology.

Just as it sounds, Riot quickly combines data from a number of sources and overlays it on a map. What makes this technology frightening is, in this instance, “data” means GPS and social media information.

To put it plainly, Riot can track you based on the information you provide to the World Wide Web.

Raytheon claims the software had not been for sale, though they had been working with the U.S. government to develop similar big data analysis. The video, says Raytheon´s PR team, acts only as a proof of concept rather than proof of a commercially available product.

"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,” said a spokesperson for the company in an email to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Its innovative privacy features are the most robust that we're aware of, enabling the sharing and analysis of data without personally identifiable information being disclosed.”

Like other creepy software which has popped up in years past, Riot works by scouring social networks for information which has been made publicly available by the user. In the video, (which was shot in 2010 but only surfaced this weekend) Raytheon principal investigator Brian Ulrich demos the software by tracking a co-worker´s journeys between Massachusetts and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.  The co-worker, Nick Knize, would check-in to different locations using four popular social networks: Gowalla, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. After typing his name into the search bar, Nick´s locations are displayed on top of a Google Earth map.

Often when people check-in to locations, they post some sort of picture to accompany this check-in. Using the ℠exif´ header data of these images, Riot is able to place these pictures to corresponding points on a map as well. As Ulrich points out in the video: “Now we know where Nick has gone, and we know now what he looks like.”

Ulrich then goes on to demonstrate how the service can be used to predict where people may be in the future by looking for patterns in their check-ins.

Riot finds the most common check-ins, pairs it with the time these check-ins occur, and delivers graphs detailing which place the “object” checked into most often and at what time. Object Nick just so happened to check-in to the gym most frequently at 6 am.

"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,” said Ulrich in the video.

Though the company says they´re not selling this service, they issued a press release in 2010, praising the new service, likely in hopes of begin working with other governmental agencies.

Though it shouldn´t surprise anyone this sort of cyber-tracking is possible, it is a bit shocking such a service existed more than 2 years ago. Even more upsetting is the fact it appears Riot isn´t breaking any laws; meaning local law enforcement could potentially use this service. After all, the service only looks for data that has been made publicly viewable by users. Technically speaking, this service isn´t doing anything a person with plenty of spare time on their hands could do from their living room.