Is Big Brother watching from the Raytheon headquarters? The security firm has reportedly developed software that can track people’s online habits and predict future behavior based on data from social-networking websites.
The “extreme-scale analytics” system, named Riot (Rapid Information Overlay Technology), can gather vast amounts of information from popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, according to The Guardian.
The Massachusetts-based company has not sold the software yet, but did share the technology with the U.S. government in 2010 to help build a national security system that can analyze trillions of pieces of cyberspace data.
“The power of Riot to harness popular websites for surveillance offers a rare insight into controversial techniques that have attracted interest from intelligence and national security agencies,” The Guardian said, “at the same time prompting civil liberties and online privacy concerns.”
Based on a video posted on the news site, Riot can be used to closely track a person’s life, down to their daily gym schedule. Raytheon’s principal investigator, Brian Urch, details a world map that pinpoints a user’s check-ins based on latitude and longitude sometimes posted with photos on social networks. By tracking Nick, one of Raytheon’s own employees, Urch reveals that he visits Washington Nationals Park, from where he once posted a photo of him posing with a woman.
“We know where Nick’s going, we know what Nick looks like,” Urch said in the video. “Now we want to try to predict where he may be in the future.”
There is no direct link yet between Raytheon’s product and the future of Internet security, but The Guardian reported that Riot was part of a company patent published in December, which called for a system designed to gather personal data from social networks, blogs, and other sources to identify potential security risks.
A company spokesman declined to comment on the program, saying only that “Raytheon, as a leader in cybersecurity, offers advanced capabilities to government customers. We’re focused on providing them the best available solutions that meet their constantly evolving requirements.”
Last year, there were reports that the FBI was turning to social media to track stock fraud. Earlier in the year, the agency said it was developing a social media monitoring application, but insisted it would protect the privacy of individuals and protected groups before being used.