Raytheon has developed a software named Riot to track people on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social media formats. In an effort to predict the movements of possible terrorist or individuals deemed a threat to national security the Massachusetts-based company has found a way to exploit the vulnerabilities in social media settings. The lack of oversight and regulation on the software capability has civil rights groups very worried. Mashable reports:
In the video obtained by the Guardian, it is explained by Raytheon’s “principal investigator” Brian Urch that photographs users post on social networks sometimes contain latitude and longitude details – automatically embedded by smartphones within “exif header data.”
Riot pulls out this information, showing not only the photographs posted onto social networks by individuals, but also the location at which the photographs were taken.
The same venue that helped propel and organize the “Arab Spring” now has the potential to not only track past activities of individuals or “terrorist” but also predict future ones. In an exclusive report by the Guardian, Ratheon developers demonstrated the capacity of Riot on one of their own staff members. Bringing up a picture of “Nick” along with his Facebook, Twitter and Foursquar posts they pull information. This embedded information is then put in graph form showing he frequently visits Washington Nationals Park and goes to the same gym around 6am each weekday.
The video shows that Nick, who posts his location regularly on Foursquare, visits a gym frequently at 6am early each week. Urch quips: “So if you ever did want to try to get hold of Nick, or maybe get hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6am on a Monday.”
The powerful software also has the capability to connect the relationships of individuals, how often and where they meet up.
Riot can display on a spider diagram the associations and relationships between individuals online by looking at who they have communicated with over Twitter. It can also mine data from Facebook and sift GPS location information from Foursquare, a mobile phone app used by more than 25 million people to alert friends of their whereabouts. The Foursquare data can be used to display, in graph form, the top 10 places visited by tracked individuals and the times at which they visited them.
Riot is scheduled to be showcased at the April US government conference on secretive and classified innovations. To date the technology has been labeled “EAR99” by the US trade control department. This makes it available for shipping with out a license to any destination. The potential of privacy and civil rights threat has many people worried.
However, Ginger McCall, an attorney at the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, said the Raytheon technology raised concerns about how troves of user data could be covertly collected without oversight or regulation.