I’m a bit hesitant to cover this news item because of its sensitivity. But then I realized I’m not from the U.S. so I guess the CIA won’t be running after me in case I miss out some minor points of the news. Still, I’d be cautious and just mention the facts.
What am I talking about? Wired.com is running an exclusive piece about the CIA’s investment arm called In-Q-Tel which is reportedly eyeing a piece of Visible Technologies. Visible Technologies is a software firm specializing on social media monitoring such as blog posts, online videos, newspaper articles, Flickr photos, Tweeter tweets and other social media by-products.
When tracking social media activities such as blog posts, Visible labels each post as either positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It also determines how influential a blogger or author is and the conversation that it generates from his blog posts. Visible Technologies will then allow users to tag posts, share them with colleagues and provides a response mechanism via a web interface.
According to the report, In-Q-Tel wants Visible to track foreign social media activities and inform them of issues that are being handled internationally.
But the report further states:
Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.
There are other finer points of In-Q-Tels decision to invest on Visible Technologies. But I would rather that you read them on your own, since this is something that I don’t want to happen in the country where I’m located. It’s like putting too much power on a country’s Intel Department.
And we all know that power comes with great responsibility. I don’t think the guys at the CIA In-Q-Tel are all Peter Parker wannabes who can handle power to the betterment of all.
Still, the question remains – are you comfortable knowing that your blog posts or your Tweets are being monitored and track by a goverment agency?