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CIA Invests in Company that Monitors Social Network Sites

The investment arm of the CIA is investing in a firm that monitors social media as part of the CIA’s effort to access more “open source intelligence.” The firm is known as Visible Technologies and has offices in New York, Seattle, and Boston. The firm was created in 2005 and in 2006 developed a partnership with WPP, a worldwide communication firm. Visible Technologies will help the CIA monitor information that gets overlooked in the massive number of web documents. The company will be keeping track of influential Internet posters and how foreign posters view news events. Although the CIA will be gathering information that is legally open for anyone to view, media outlets have raised concerns over the possibility that the CIA may use the information for illegal political purposes. These political purposes could include beginning unauthorized domestic investigations into public figures. Visible Technologies can monitor over half a million sites every day. These sites include any open social websites, such as Twitter or Flickr, however Visible Technologies cannot currently access closed social networking sites like Facebook. Visible Technologies is already at work for companies such as Microsoft and Verizon, keeping track of positive and negative feedback on their products.

Sources:

“Exclusive: U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm that Monitors Blogs, Twitter” Noah Shachtman, Wired, October 19, 2009

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/10/exclusive-us-spies-buy-stake-in-twitter-blog-monitoring-firm/

“CIA Invests in Software Firm Monitoring Blogs, Twitter” Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, October 22, 2009

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/22/cia_invests_in_software_firm_monitoring

“Our Story” Visible Technologies

http://www.visibletechnologies.com/company.html

Student Researchers: Lynn Demos, Ben Solomon, Steve Wojanis

Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley, Associate Professor of Media Studies, DePauw University

Evaluator: Jeff McCall, Professor of Communications, DePauw University

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