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Raytheon's Riot Program Mines Social Network Data For Intelligence Agencies 119

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-see-you dept.
Shipud writes "Raytheon has secretly developed software capable of tracking people's movements and predicting future behavior by mining data from social networking websites according to The Guardian. An 'extreme-scale analytics' system created by Raytheon, the world's fifth largest defense contractor, can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Raytheon says it has not sold the software — named Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology — to any clients. But the company has acknowledged the technology was shared with U.S. government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analyzing 'trillions of entities' from cyberspace. The power of Riot to harness popular websites for surveillance offers a rare insight into controversial techniques that have attracted interest from intelligence and national security agencies, at the same time prompting civil liberties and online privacy concerns."
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Raytheon's Riot Program Mines Social Network Data For Intelligence Agencies

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  • And did they just raid facebook's data, disregarding privacy settings, to develop this software?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dan667 (564390)
      facebook would probably sell it to them cheap if they asked.
      • Yet Another Reason Not To Do FaceBook.
        • Re:YARNTDFB (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Monday February 11, 2013 @12:22PM (#42860957) Journal

          Yet Another Reason Not To Do FaceBook.

          And Twitter, Foursquare, and the rest of the so-called "social" web. Anyway, if they're interested in finding terrorists and whatnot, they should probably look elsewhere. If they're interested in picking up stuff to use against their own citizens (Stasi-style), then they're probably on the right track.

          • by Synerg1y (2169962)

            Well... what's there to prevent terrorists from using social networks?

          • by cayenne8 (626475)

            nyway, if they're interested in finding terrorists and whatnot, they should probably look elsewhere. If they're interested in picking up stuff to use against their own citizens (Stasi-style), then they're probably on the right track.

            I see your latter point as a valid concern.

            Hell, it seems these days, all you need are to claim something is to combat child pr0n or terrorism, and voila, you've now acquired the keys to the Constitution and can squash any old rights you used to have. Having more info on the

    • Re:sample data (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:40AM (#42860261)
      You're assuming that they need access to private data on Facebook to make this work. Between the lack of people fine-tuning their privacy settings, and the ability of other users to note what one is doing even if one doesn't share such information, and it's no surprise that they can develop this software.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        Private data no, but I'm pretty sure that FB requires people to pay if they want to use spiders to get all the data that's been posted, rather than just small amounts about individuals.

    • by neorush (1103917)
      Have you looked at some of your friends profiles as a guest? I'd estimate that 80%+ of my friends on FB have the bulk of their posts public, no need to raid.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There seem to be eve- more compelling reasons not to use the social networks.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is /., you can say "even" here. No profanity filters. Viva liberty!

  • by mjwalshe (1680392) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:22AM (#42859973)
    people singular or people en mass? Calculating statistically what a group might do might work but an individual that is a big ask)
    • by EvilSS (557649)
      According to TFA they are talking about individuals.
    • Calculating statistically what a group might do

      I believe you are referring to psychohistory from 'The Foundation' by Isaac Asimov.

    • Espionage and surveillance work is done by diligence and pricing together bits of data to create an informative model. Every bit of evidential data or prediction narrows the filed of outcomes and increases the predictive capability and probability of the location and behavior even of an individual. Our courts work that way, bit by bit, and the bar for surveillance is much, much lower. No reasonable doubt stuff needed. With limited staff and resources, anything that narrows an individual likely locations and
      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        yes but that is done by human officers working on suspects and not a ML/AI system analyzing a huge data set to pick out an individual - you could pick out candidates for humans to have a deeper look i can buy that but predicting individuals by its self (short of a singularity) i find a bit hard to believe
  • easy solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msheekhah (903443) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:29AM (#42860091)
    Just don't post location data or activities if you're engaging in protests... disable location services on your phone. You're giving data to a public database and then crying about privacy... just don't give them information.
    • Re:easy solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:54AM (#42860463)

      Just don't post location data or activities if you're engaging in protests... disable location services on your phone. You're giving data to a public database and then crying about privacy... just don't give them information.

      How can you be sure that everyone who's participating in that same protest followed your advice?

      They don't need the information you post if they already have the information other people post about you.

    • It's not as simple as that. I saw a talk by a researcher a few months ago who discovered that Twitter posts could be used to predict spikes in crime. Basically, the example he demonstrated went something like this: when a lot of people are posting messages about being stuck in traffic, the probability of hit-and-run accidents increases. The researcher conjectured that the reason for this phenomenon was that drivers were taking detours, and that the combination of running late and being on an unfamiliar
    • by Anonymous Coward

      disable location services on your phone

      If you think that will help, you're clueless. And thus part of the vast majority and exactly the type this program targets. The only way to (probably) incapacitate the personal surveillance device (aka your cell phone) is to yank out the battery or better yet leave the whole god damn thing at home. Or never agree to carry one in the first place.

      George Orwell will be saying "told you so". And Stalin will be drooling as this is his wet dream and something he always strived for but could never achieve.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        If you're paranoid, you should most definitely have a cell phone and carry it with you most of the time, making the odd call, but conveniently "forget" it when you don't want to be traced by it. Not having a cell phone would be a lot more suspicious nowadays, the authorities would probably assume you had another secret one and go about tracing that.
    • Just don't post location data or activities if you're engaging in protests... disable location services on your phone. You're giving data to a public database and then crying about privacy... just don't give them information.

      Indeed. Terrorists hide their activity from the authorities by concealing themselves within the populace. This is the first rule of asymmetric warfare. And it still holds, whether you are hiding within a city's population being surveilled by cameras operated by the authorities, or within the statistical bubble that the authorities are able to track via software like RIOT. The nature of the battles may change, but the nature of warfare doesn't.

    • ... disable location services on your phone. You're giving data to a public database and then crying about privacy... just don't give them information.

      You are assuming here that you have complete and total control of your phone, completely impervious from overrides by the greasy carriers and their state security handlers.

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I think anyone who posts stuff on twitter or facebook like "look there's a riot going on, let's go and join in and do some looting" deserves to get caught and sent to prison for stupidity. But that was effectively what happened during the riots here in the UK in 2011.
  • We're not supposed to fear our government. We're just crazies and whackos.

    Anyone remember the RPG Paranoia? .gov wants you to be happy...

  • This is another reason why I deleted my FaceBook account. Truth be told, I do not miss it one bit. Try it... you'll feel better.
  • by jamstar7 (694492) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:39AM (#42860249)
    Anybody else get a flashback to 'Minority Report'?

    The raging paranoid in me says this is a Very Bad Thing that will end up with politicians refusing to relinquish power by passing laws arresting people for 'crimes' they might commit based on this statistical analysis, followed up by lists of new 'crimes' demanding 'harsh penalties' covered by these same new laws. Aggrivated littering and felony loitering, anyone?
    • by Xarius (691264)

      Seems more like Person of Interest [wikipedia.org] realm, and that show feels a lot more like something that could exist today than flukey telepaths being born. (Great show by the way, starts of slow but gets going!)

  • by PPH (736903)

    In Soviet Russia .....

    No, sorry. I've got nothing to top this.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:46AM (#42860343)

    tracking people's movements and predicting future behavior

    Time for a forest and tree analogy. On a rounding basis, the masses have historically never done anything terribly exciting, important, or relevant. So paying intense attention to them is a waste of resources. Its always the 10% or less who actually influence history. If we made all predictions based on the median joe 6 pack couch potato, we'd still be british subjects, we'd still be in control of independent south vietnam, iraq and afghanistan would be fully pacified, blah blah blah.

    I don't think that knowing 30% of the population liked the most recent american idol episode is actionable intelligence information in either the short, medium, or long term. Imagine a squad about to deploy on a mission in Iraq being told that the best help intel can provide today is that 15% of active facebook users like listening to Bieber. Umm, thanks guys, on to the next briefing.

    Its a self blinding technology, not an enlightening technology. I'm sure its highly profitable for contractors of course.

    • by DoraLives (622001)

      Actually, having a crystal clear picture of what the Great Swarm is doing provides an exquisitely crisp background against which one can pick out very fine details indeed when it comes to excursions from that background.

      It's the excursions that they're looking for and keeping a close eye upon.

      As the detail of the background becomes sharper and sharper, so too does detail of the excursions.

      • by vlm (69642)

        excursions from that background

        But the excursions from the background are also not actionable data. Right back to my original example, OK the important part is not that 15% of the dirt villagers like Bieber, its that 85% actively dislike Bieber. Still not actionable because the subject of discussion is useless from a military tactical / strategic / logistic perspective.

        I will say that you could see a meta-pattern of peoples behavior when they know they're being monitored. Like if you have people faking data, poorly, to make it look li

    • On a rounding basis, the masses have historically never done anything terribly exciting, important, or relevant. So paying intense attention to them is a waste of resources.

      Welcome to 2013 - where the resources (to collect and process the data) may seem massive, but they're dirt cheap. The waste is far less than you seem to think.

      Its always the 10% or less who actually influence history.

      True. And if you have a better way of finding the 10% than sifting through everyone looking for pointers to the

  • You know, for such an Orwellian sounding program, you'd think the marketing droids there would have picked a better acronym than RIOT. Like Worldwide Online Overlord Technology or something on the lines of that.
  • I pretty much do the same things every day at more or less the same time. I have Sunday dinner at the same restaurant and order the same thing. Give her a calendar an time of day and she could predict my movements precisely.

    • by cayenne8 (626475)

      I pretty much do the same things every day at more or less the same time. I have Sunday dinner at the same restaurant and order the same thing. Give her a calendar an time of day and she could predict my movements precisely.

      Just curious..why are you living your whole life stuck in such a rut?

      That would be so boring to me...I rarely eat the same thing within a 3-4 week period.

      Do you not crave some variety?

      Not putting you down...but just curious. I'm not familiar with someone that would go to one restaur

      • Interesting question. I notice that I tend to optimize my daily experiences and then minimize deviation from those experiences, so that when I find my favorite dish in a restaurant, I rarely order anything else. For example, I get Sunday dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant where I've gone for 16 years or so. I'm in there at 4:30 almost every Sunday. I always get Pho Ga. The time works for me because that's when I get back from the lakehouse and I get back at 4:30 to beat traffic, yet extend my stay. The soup

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          At 55, I know what I like and how much I like it. Experimentation becomes less important than experience.

          Thanks for the answer, interesting.

          I find that I'm setting in my ways, somewhat in spite of myself.

          As I'm aging, however, I'm actively trying to keep myself from doing that, and actively seeking out new experiences and new things best I can....hoping it keeps my mind younger and, hopefully, keeping from getting too close minded, and not to be yelling to 'get off my lawn' too often or too loudly.

          :)

          I

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Just curious..why are you living your whole life stuck in such a rut?

        Alternatively, I could say that if the only interesting thing in your life is that you eat different foods every day, you are living in a superficial bubble.

        I doubt that Einstein worried about whether he had potatoes three days in a row.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          Alternatively, I could say that if the only interesting thing in your life is that you eat different foods every day, you are living in a superficial bubble.

          Well, I have some routine forced upon me, due to having to work for a living.

          But outside of that, I do try to do something new and different as often as I can. I do think of food and cooking as HUGE part of my life, that I enjoy, so culinary speaking, I am always looking for new things to eat and cook.

          But, I constantly look for new things to do, ne

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:50AM (#42860419)
    #!/bin/bash

    while [ 1 ]; do
       wget -q https://twitter.com/YourAnonNews -O /tmp/aa1.txt
       wget -q https://plus.google.com/117604887745850959716 -O /tmp/aa2.txt
       wget -q http://anonnews.org/ -O /tmp/aa3.txt

       egrep '(meetup|protest|flashmob|operation|torrent|TPB)' /tmp/aa*txt | mail -s '+0p 53cr3tz' opswatch@raytheon.com
       sleep 300
    done
    • by DeTech (2589785)
      It Raytheon... It's gonna have to be a dos script.
  • I know Linchpin theory is a lame reference, but this story does suggest its validity.

    tldr: The Riot program can be used for social engineering, but social engineering can be used to render its inferences invalid and therefore dangerously unreliable.

    Any chance this system can be used to trigger events, like, say, riots? Think about it. It's easy to observe social network and make statistical inferences about group behavior afk or not.

    But that behavior is affected by the very data being measured; it is a de

  • and all of our problems are solved!

  • No fb account, no twitter account, no google+ account (except for that default one they evidently made for me and keep telling me I should check).

    When do they decide I'm an antisocial psychopath who gets bumped to the top of the watch lists?

    • It's already been done.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      No fb account, no twitter account, no google+ account (except for that default one they evidently made for me and keep telling me I should check).

      When do they decide I'm an antisocial psychopath who gets bumped to the top of the watch lists?

      Most political activists, protesters or terrorists are not antisocial. I imagine you might rate an interest if there's a spate of arson attacks or animal mutilations in your neighbourhood though.

  • Programmer ethics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday February 11, 2013 @12:21PM (#42860941) Homepage Journal

    I've often wondered about the programmers who write these software packages.

    The stereotype programmer is young, bright, scientific, idealistic, and concerned for global issues.

    And yet, big companies have no problem staffing teams to write the software for predator drones, Carnivore [wikipedia.org], Total Information Awareness [wikipedia.org], and other packages which are used to violate human rights.

    Where do these "programmers of dubious character" come from?

    Many programmers say (when I ask) that they have high moral standards - more so than (they say) the average person. And yet, they work on all sorts of sketchy things.

    Can anyone explain the disconnect? Is there a level of "bravery" associated with morality (ie - I'm against *this*, but not willing to lose my job over it)? Are moral arguments here (for example) just blowing smoke?

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday February 11, 2013 @12:41PM (#42861329)

      Well, you have two data points. The existence of all sorts of software designed to take advantage of information easily available on the internet, and a 'feeling' that programmers possess some special moral character. The answer to this conflict is obvious.

      The idea that programmers have some special moral character is nonsense.

    • If we rephrase your question into "Why do people obey when they get ordered to do bad things?" then this TED talk by Philip Zimbardo [ted.com] may explain some of the core problems with that (although it obviously shows much more extreme cases, sometimes even hard to watch.)
    • Robert Oppenhiemer was horrified by what he helped create. I assume during working on it, he justified doing so due to the goal of defeating a force of evil. I assume the current generation of worker bees think the same way. Or they're just jingoistic sociopaths.
    • by cayenne8 (626475)

      I've often wondered about the programmers who write these software packages.

      The stereotype programmer is young, bright, scientific, idealistic, and concerned for global issues.

      And yet, big companies have no problem staffing teams to write the software for predator drones, Carnivore [wikipedia.org], Total Information Awareness [wikipedia.org], and other packages which are used to violate human rights.

      Where do these "programmers of dubious character" come from?

      Well, two different concepts there.

      One mi

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Most people work a job ONLY to earn money. So, you do what it takes to earn money.

        That does not logically follow.

        Unless you're in a situation where the alternative is starving to death, which is what capitalists would prefer, you always have a choice about what job you do.

    • by Dripdry (1062282)

      Programmer, meet money and security. Plus great benefits. And a great resume builder with the possibility of being cushy for life.
      Or... take your chances in the slave mines with other people and hope you don't get downsized at 35.

      That's my guess.

      or they just realize that if they pass on it someone else will just do the job instead

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        or they just realize that if they pass on it someone else will just do the job instead

        That's also known as the "well someone was going to gas/bayonet the concentration camp victims to death anyway, so why shouldn't I do it?" defence. It doesn't wash.

    • No one said the software was very good.
    • by Patman64 (1622643)

      Yeah, whenever I see I story like this I wonder to myself "How the hell can anyone work on this stuff and still sleep at night?" Either A. they don't realize that they're an active part of making the US a hellish dystopia, or B. really don't give a fuck about the world tomorrow and just want to get paid today.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      The stereotype programmer is young, bright, scientific, idealistic, and concerned for global issues.

      I expect a lot of Nazis were too.

      I've no idea where you get your stereotype from.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147)

    Raytheon can track people who publish their GPS coordinates publicly on the Internet? OMG scary!

    They're mining Foursquare. The POINT of Foursquare is to let people know where you are. By the way, how do I get fat defence contracts for writing trivial programs?

  • If you do not have accounts on any social networking site, such as Facebook, Myspace and their ilk (/. excluded), does it flag you as subversive? What are the prediction parameteres for those of us that shun most of the social stuff...just a thought.
  • by joh (27088)

    It's just totally follows logically to think through what you could get if you would exploit just everything that people allow to leak online if you don't have to even LOOK as if you're caring for privacy or anything.

    Seriously, it would be strange if something like that wouldn't exist. And of course as always YOU just need to be more cunning than THEM.

  • Probably the reason some of these sites are pushing for real names to be used.
  • "says it has not sold the software..." What a bunch of bull. Raytheon NEVER, EVER develops software just for fun. They must have had a contract by Big Bother before they wrote a line of code or paid a single programmer.
  • there's an opportunity for anybody with some capital behind them to make an absolute killing selling phones that have no paper trail. cash or bitcoin. kind of like a legal black market.

    kim dotcom? he's got reason to want to anonymize people again.

    dissident activity requires anonymity. intel agencies should be worried that the path they are taking is going to force protest into a state that simply cannot be traced back to individuals. it's not too difficult to achieve, and if people follow simple rules

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