Security firm Raytheon has been developing software that can track people’s online communications and predict their real-world movements based on their social media posts and check-ins, according to a report.
The tracking technology, first revealed by The Guardian, mines data from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and geotagged photographs to create detailed “spider web” graphs of individual’s online relationships as well as reveal their real-world behavioral patterns. Taken together, that information can form the basis of a detailed dossier on targeted individuals.
Named “Riot” for “Rapid Information Overlay Technology,” it has been in development since at least November of 2010 according to a proof-of-concept video acquired by The Guardian and embedded above.
In the video, Raytheon principal investigator Brian Urch demonstrates how social media posts, check-ins and photos with embedded location data can be used to track an individual — in the test case, a Raytheon employee named “Nick” serving as a lab rat. Urch is able to use the tracking software to show locations where Nick frequents and guess where he’s most likely to appear in the future based on behavioral patterns.
“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 6 a.m. on a Monday,” says Urch in the demonstration video after discovering Nick’s tendency to work out at the same time every week.
It’s unclear whether Riot is capable of mining data from private accounts or how useful it is when targeting subjects who aren’t willing participants in a proof-of-concept demonstration. Mashable has reached out to Raytheon for clarity on these points and we will update this post with any response.
Riot’s most likely customers are law enforcement agencies — it’s not hard to imagine police using Riot to track suspects. Riot has not yet been sold to any clients, reported The Guardian.
The footage is bound to put privacy activists on high alert — Mashable has contacted several privacy advocacy organizations for their comment. Meanwhile, Jared Adams, a spokesperson for Raytheon, preempted privacy concerns in a statement emailed to The Guardian which also confirmed the software’s existence:
“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. Its innovative privacy features are the most robust that we’re aware of, enabling the sharing and analysis of data without personally identifiable information [such as social security numbers, bank or other financial account information] being disclosed.”
Does the video seen above make you reconsider sharing public updates? Share your thoughts in the comments.