US Intelligence Agencies Now Spying on Your Tweets and Social Media

It’s common knowledge that anything we do online becomes a part of the public domain and can come back to haunt us… however, it’s much less comforting to hear that the CIA and other spy agencies are investing in technology to do this kind of data-mining as systematically and efficiently as possible.

In-Q-Tel is an investment branch of the US intelligence community, and it recently helped fund Visible, a $20 million, 90-employee software company dedicated to crawling sites like YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Amazon, and other social media communities to aggregate useful data about the flow of information.

It scours posts to determine various factors, such as if they are positive or negative, how influential the information is, and then makes the data traceable and shareable by users of the service.

It’s part of the spy agencies’ efforts to gather better intelligence on quickly changing areas of interest in social media, and on much of the new content that’s updated on the web in real time. Currently, the technology is used by Dell, Microsoft, Verizon and other companies to track buzz and promotions.

However, there are obvious diabolical ways of using the technology domestically, for example, to spy on politicians and journalists. This particular investment is also intended to bolster the use of the surveillance tool in about 12 other languages, including Arabic. This should be useful to the spy agencies given that many of the most popular social media tools available in the US have been replicated in other languages around the world.

With terrorist bugaboos to be constantly uncovered, and the IRS ramping up its effort to hunt down tax deadbeats in light of increasing debt and declining revenue, the possible nefarious uses of this kind of technology seem endless. If you weren’t much concerned about your online identity before, here’s one more reason to be alarmed.

The full story on US spies buying a stake in Visible is available on Wired.