Google and the CIA invest in analytics firm

Google and the CIA have both set their sites on an analytics firm created by a former Swedish Army Ranger. Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel, the CIA's investment arm, have given money to analytics firm Recorded Future. The sum of money given to Recorded Future wasn't released but it is less than $10 million each.

Recorded Future goes through tens of thousands of web sites and looks for content that is related. For example, the site searches Twitter accounts, blogs and other websites and analyzes them in an attempt to spot events and trends as early as possible. According to Wired, "The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event." The CEO, Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in Computer Science, said, "The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases." The company describes itself as the ultimate tool for open-source intelligence and markets itself towards corporations and brands but they have also caught the attention of the guys in the counter-terrorism field.

The CIA has invested in a number of firms through In-Q-Tel to help them gain access to information. Some of the sites they have invested in include Visible Technologies, Attensity and Keyhole. Visible Technologies scrapes half a million web sites every day and stores the text from blogs and conversations that happen on those sites. Attensity applies rules of grammar to the "unstructured text" of the web so that government databases can more easily digest the data. Keyhole, now known as Google Earth, is used by the military intelligence to scout targeted locations.

Critics of the intelligence community aren't worried yet. Steven Aftergood, a member of the Federation of American Scientists said,

"To me, whether this is troublesome or not depends on the degree of transparency involved. If everything is aboveboard — from contracts to deliverables — I don’t see a problem with it. But if there are blank spots in the record, then they will be filled with public skepticism or worse, both here and abroad, and not without reason."

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