by Tom Burghardt
October 11, 2010
As they walked along the busy,
yellow-lit tiers of offices, Anderton said:
"You're acquainted with the theory
of precrime, of course. I presume we can take that for granted."
Philip K. Dick
The Minority Report
Google, the CIA and a host of so-called "predictive behavior"
start-ups have in common?
They're interested in you, or more specifically, whether your online
interests - from
Facebook to Twitter posts, and from Flickr
photos to YouTube and blog entries - can be exploited by powerful
computer algorithms and subsequently transformed into "actionable
And whether the knowledge gleaned from an IP address is geared towards
selling useless junk or entering a name into a law enforcement database
matters not a whit. It's all "just data" and "buzz" goes the mantra,
along what little is left of our privacy and our rights.
Increasingly, secret state agencies ranging from the Central Intelligence
to the National Security Agency (NSA)
are pouring millions of dollars into data-mining firms which claim they have
a handle on who you are or what you might do in the future.
And to top it off, the latest trend in weeding-out dissenters and
nonconformists from the social landscape will soon be invading a workplace
near you; in fact, it already has.
Welcome to the sinister world of "precrime"
where capitalist grifters, drug- and torture-tainted spy shops are all
laboring mightily to stamp out every last vestige of free thought here in
The CIA Enters the
In July, security journalist Noah Shachtman
revealed in Wired that,
"the investment arms of the CIA and Google
are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time - and says
it uses that information to predict the future."
Shachtman reported that the CIA's semi-private
Google Ventures, the search giant's
business division had partnered-up with a dodgy outfit called
Recorded Future (below video) pouring, according to some
estimates, $20 million dollars into the fledgling firm.
A blurb on In-Q-Tel's web site informs us that,
"Recorded Future extracts time and event
information from the web. The company offers users new ways to analyze
the past, present, and the predicted future."
Who those ubiquitous though nameless "users" are
or what they might do with that information once they "extract" it from the
web is left unsaid.
However, judging from the interest that a
CIA-connected entity has expressed in funding the company, privacy will not
figure prominently in the "new ways" such tools will be used.
Wired reported that the company, founded by former Swedish Army Ranger
"scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs
and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people,
organizations, actions and incidents - both present and still-to-come."
"The cool thing is" Ahlberg said, "you can
actually predict the curve, in many cases."
And as for the search giant's interest in
"predicting the future" for the secret state, it wouldn't be the first time
that Google Ventures sold equipment and expertise to America's shadow
While the firm may pride itself on the corporate slogan, "don't be evil,"
data is a valuable commodity. And where's there value, there's money to be
Whether it comes in the form of "increasing share value" through the
sale of private information to marketeers or state intelligence agencies
eager to increase "situational awareness" of the "battlespace" is a matter
of complete indifference to corporate bean counters.
After all, as Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC last year,
"if you have something that you don't want
anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
But that standard, "only bad people have
something to hide," is infinitely mutable and can be stretched - or
manipulated as has so often been the case in the United States - to
encompass everything from,
Schmidt went on to say that,
"the reality is that search engines,
including Google, do retain this information for some time. And we're
all subject, in the U.S., to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that
that information could be made available to the authorities."
In February, The Washington Post
"the world's largest Internet search company
and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are
teaming up in the name of cybersecurity."
"The alliance" between
Google and NSA "is being designed to
allow the two organizations to share critical information without
violating Google's policies or laws that protect the privacy of
Americans' online communications," the Post alleged.
An anonymous source told the Post,
"the deal does not mean the NSA will be
viewing users' searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be
sharing proprietary data."
Last spring it was revealed that Google's Street View cars had been secretly
vacuuming up terabytes of private wi-fi data for more than three years
across Europe and the United States.
The Sunday Times
the firm had, "been scooping up snippets of people's
online activities broadcast over unprotected home and business wi-fi
In July, The Washington Post's "Top Secret
America" investigation disclosed that Google supplies mapping and search
products to the U.S. secret state and that their employees, outsourced
intelligence contractors for the Defense Department, may have filched their
customers' wi-fi data as part of an NSA surveillance project.
And what about email and web searches?
Last year, The New York Times
that NSA intercepts of,
"private telephone calls and e-mail messages
of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged."
In fact, a former NSA analyst described how he
was trained-up fierce in 2005,
"for a program in which the agency routinely
examined large volumes of Americans' e-mail messages without court
That program, code-named
PINWALE, and the NSA's meta-data-mining spy
STELLAR WIND, continue under
Indeed, The Atlantic
told us at the time
"is actually an unclassified proprietary
term used to refer to advanced data-mining software that the government
But the seamless relationships amongst
communications' giants such as Google and the secret state doesn't stop
Even before Google sought an assist from the National Security Agency to
secure its networks after an alleged breech by China last year, in 2004 the
firm had acquired
Keyhole, Inc., an In-Q-Tel funded start-up
that developed 3-D-spy-in-the-sky images; Keyhole became the backbone for
what later evolved into Google Earth.
At the time of their initial investment,
In-Q-Tel said that Keyhole's,
"strategic relationship... means that the
Intelligence Community can now benefit from the massive scalability and
high performance of the Keyhole enterprise solution."
In-Q-Tel's then-CEO, Gilman Louie, said
that spy shop venture capitalists invested in the firm,
"because it offers government and commercial
users a new capability to radically enhance critical decision making.
Through its ability to stream very large geospatial datasets over the
Internet and private networks, Keyhole has created an entirely new way
to interact with earth imagery and feature data."
Or, as seen on a daily basis in the
AfPak "theatre" deliver exciting new ways
to kill people.
Now that's innovation!
That was then, now the search giant and the CIA's investment arm are banking
on products that will take privacy intrusions to a whole new level.
A promotional offering by the up-and-comers in the predictive behavior
Recorded Future - A White Paper on Temporal Analytics
"unlike traditional search engines which
focus on text retrieval and leaves the analysis to the user, we strive
to provide tools which assist in identifying and understanding
historical developments, and which can also help formulate hypotheses
about and give clues to likely future events. We have decided on the
term 'temporal analytics' to describe the time oriented analysis tasks
supported by our systems."
Big in the hyperbole department, Recorded
Future claims to have developed an,
"analytics engine, which goes beyond search,
explicit link analysis and adds implicit link analysis, by looking at
the 'invisible links' between documents that talk about the same, or
related, entities and events. We do this by separating the documents and
their content from what they talk about."
According to the would-be Big Brother
"Recorded Future also analyzes the 'time and
space dimension' of documents - references to when and where an event
has taken place, or even when and where it will take place - since many
documents actually refer to events expected to take place in the
Adding to the unadulterated creep factor, the
technocratic grifters aver they're,
"adding more components, e.g. sentiment
analyses, which determine what attitude an author has towards his/her
topic, and how strong that attitude is - the affective state of the
Strongly oppose America's imperial project to
steal other people's resources in Afghanistan and Iraq, or, crime of crimes,
have the temerity to write or organize against it?
Step right this way, Recorded Future has
their eye on you and will sell that information to the highest bidder!
After all, as Mike Van Winkle, a California Anti-Terrorism
Information Center shill infamously told the
Oakland Tribune back in 2003
after Oakland cops wounded scores of peacenik longshoremen at an antiwar
rally at the port:
"You can make an easy kind of a link that,
if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's
being fought against is international terrorism, you might have
terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against
that is a terrorist act."
And with Recorded Future's "sentiment analyses"
such "links" will be even easier to fabricate.
Never mind that the prestigious National Academy of Science's National
Research Council issued a scathing 2008 report,
Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against
Terrorists: A Framework for Assessment, that debunked the utility
of data-ming and link analysis as effective counterterrorism tools.
"Far more problematic," the NRC informs us,
"are automated data-mining techniques that search databases for unusual
patterns of activity not already known to be associated with
Since "so little is known about what
patterns indicate terrorist activity" the report avers, dodgy techniques
such as link analysis "are likely to generate huge numbers of false
As for Recorded Future's over-hyped
"sentiment analyses," the NRC debunked, one might even say preemptively, the
dodgy claims of our would-be precrime mavens.
"The committee also examined behavioral
surveillance techniques, which try to identify terrorists by observing
behavior or measuring physiological states."
"There is no scientific consensus on whether
these techniques are ready for use at all in counterterrorism."
Damningly, the NRC asserted that such
"have enormous potential for privacy
violations because they will inevitably force targeted individuals to
explain and justify their mental and emotional states."
Not that such inconvenient facts matter to
Recorded Future or their paymasters in the so-called intelligence
community who after all, are in the driver's seat when the firm's knowledge
products "make predictions about the future."
After all, as Ahlberg and his merry band of privacy invaders inform us:
"Our mission is not to help our customers
find documents, but to enable them to understand what is happening in
The better to get a leg up on the competition or
know who to target.
The "Real You"
Not to be outdone by black world spy agencies, their outsourced corporate
partners or the futurist gurus who do their bidding, the high-tech
Datamation, told us last month that the
"is coming very soon to the world of Human
Resources (HR) and employee management."
Reporter Mike Elgan revealed that a,
"Santa Barbara, Calif., startup called
Social Intelligence data-mines the
social networks to help companies decide if they really want to hire
Elgan averred that while background checks have
historically searched for evidence of criminal behavior on the part of
"Social Intelligence is the first company
that I'm aware of that systematically trolls social networks for
evidence of bad character."
Similar to Recorded Future and dozens of
other "predictive behavior" companies such as
Visible Technologies, Social Intelligence
"automation software that slogs through
Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and 'thousands of
other sources,' the company develops a report on the 'real you' - not
the carefully crafted you in your resume."
According to Datamation,
"the company also offers a separate Social
Intelligence Monitoring service to watch the personal activity of
existing employees on an ongoing basis."
Such intrusive monitoring transforms the
"workplace" into a 24/7 Orwellian panopticon from which there is no hope of
The service is sold as an exemplary means to "enforce company social media
"criteria are company-defined, it's not
clear whether it's possible to monitor personal activity."
Fear not, it is.
Social Intelligence, according to Elgan,
"provides reporting that deemphasizes
specific actions and emphasizes character. It's less about 'what did the
employee do' and more about 'what kind of person is this employee?'"
In other words, it's all about the future;
specifically, the grim world order that fear-mongering corporations are
rapidly bringing to fruition.
Datamation reports that "following the current trend lines," rooted in the
flawed logic of information derived from data-mining and link analysis,
"social networking spiders and predictive
analytics engines will be working night and day scanning the Internet
and using that data to predict what every employee is likely to do in
the future. This capability will simply be baked right in to HR software
As with other aspects of daily life in
post-constitutional America, executive decisions, ranging from whether or
not to hire or fire someone, cast them into a lawless gulag without trial,
or even kill them solely on the say-so of
our War-Criminal-in-Chief, are the
new house rules.
Like our faux progressive president, some
HR bureaucrat will act as judge,
jury and executioner, making decisions that can - and have - wrecked lives.
Elgan tells us that unlike a criminal proceeding where you stand before the
law accused of wrongdoing and get to face your accuser,
"you can't legally be thrown in jail for bad
character, poor judgment, or expectations of what you might do in the
future. You have to actually break the law, and they have to prove it."
"Personnel actions aren't anything like
this." You aren't afforded the means to "face your accuser."
based on whether or not you sucked-up to the boss, pissed-off some
corporate toady, or moved into the "suspect" category based on an
algorithm, you don't have to actually violate company rules in order to
be fired "and they don't have to prove it."
Datamation tells us,
"if the social network scanning, predictive
analytics software of the future decides that you are going to do
something in future that's inconsistent with the company's interests,
And, Elgan avers, now that,
"the tools are becoming monstrously
sophisticated, efficient, powerful, far-reaching and invasive," the
precrime "concept is coming to HR."
Big Brother is only a "ping" or mouse click