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By 27 January 2012 | Categories: news

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If you’re the tiniest bit social media savvy, no doubt you’ve heard the advice to consider what you post on Facebook and Twitter, and how much you allow strangers to see.
 
With ill advised Facebook posts having already costing some their jobs, or preventing others from securing one, there is another authority who are turning to social media sites in a  more concerted way.
 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is apparently looking into ways of ‘scraping’ information shared on social media sites in a bid to identify potential crimes before they occur. The agency has put out a posting on its Federal Business Opportunities website which states: “The Federal Bureau of Investigations is conducting market research to determine the capabilities of the IT industry to provide a social media application”.
 
“Your mission, should you choose to accept”
 
The application would have to provide an automated search and scrape capability of both social networking sites and open source news sites for breaking events, crisis, and threats.
 
Additionally, the application would be required to be able to instantly search and monitor key words in all “publicly available” tweets across Twitter as well as other publicly available social networking sites, including Facebook and MySpace.
 
The document goes on to state that the required application will also need to “provide robust search and alert notifications of developing events and possible emerging threats to National Security, key government personnel or any criminal activity that falls in the jurisdiction or interest of the FBI.”
 
The Target
 
The application could find its use, for example, in reconnaissance and surveillance missions, National Special Security Events (NSS) planning, counter intelligence and responding to terrorism.
 
According to VentureBeat, cybercrime appears to be on top of the agency’s mind. The site points out that with the onslaught of cyber criminals working in large groups, and not necessarily restricted to one location, social media has been used as a base of operations of sorts from which to plan attacks.
 
To the point
 
While it could be a kneejerk response to view the call for what is essentially a “web spider” in a sinister light, reading through the proposed uses for the potential application struck us as being more truly an affirmation of how powerful social media has become.
 
The application will apparently only comb through information that is already being made freely and publicly available. There is no indication in the proposal documentation that users’ private information would be wrongfully accessed. Rather, it highlights that on an internet dominated by social media, the best way to keep some information private, is not to share it online at all.
 
Of course, for those criminals or corrupt politicians who really have to boast on Facebook or Twitter about their latest illicit or illegal escapade – please do. We love laughing at stupidity in action.    

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