Paranoiacs everywhere who claim social media networks make surveillance easy have just won a point. The Guardian‘s Ryan Gallagher discovered on Sunday that defense giant Raytheon developed tracking software that triangulates a person’s habits from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and image metadata and then applies predictive analytics to determine where they’ll be at a given time. Raytheon says the software, called RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology) is a proof-of-concept product not being sold to any clients. In a video demonstration, Raytheon claimed that their software combined users’ webs of associations and relationships from Twitter, data from Facebook, and GPS information from Foursquare.
“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,” Raytheon’s Jared Adams told The Guardian by email. Omnipresent surveillance by private and public entities is one of the biggest consequences of the digital age; credit card companies reputedly data mine Facebook and Twitter contact lists to assess customers’ credit risks, the FBI is discreetly data mining social media to collect publicly available info on U.S. citizens, police departments use publicly available info and predictive analytics to figure out where meth labs will open, the private sector can predict consumer behavior via online activity, and new startups are monetizing every movement of daily life. The future, apparently, is both impressive and creepy. As for Raytheon, Fast Company recently featured their computer-generated training worlds for law enforcement.