Software Tracks user Activity, predicts Future using Social Networks [Video demo]

There have been millions of privacy allegations raised against Social Networking sites like Facebook. Facebook has indepth knowledge of who you’re and what you like to do. What if this kind of information leaks on to somebody’s hands?

US Government and several federal agencies in US are believed to have access to Social networking database of Trillions of users worldwide. This has raised concerns of privacy in every part of the world.

A security firm which takes projects from defense, has secretly developed an application that is capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites. The application can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter, Gowalla and Foursquare.

So far the company claims that they haven’t yet sold the software to any government organization but it may not be far from doing so. The application is called Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology. However, this Massachusetts-based company claims to have shared the technology insight with the US government as a joint R&D effort in year 2010. US National security at that time was building a system to track down an individual in there is a national emergency. But the extent to which government has progressed since then is hazy.

Riot can crawl various social networks and deliver promising data about users due to which it has always gained traction from Intelligence and NSA, intruding civil privacy rights. Using software like Riot, it becomes possible to peek deep into someone’s personal life, with his timeline plotted onto the map with few keyboard strokes and mouse clicks. Riot grabs EXIF info available in photos uploaded to social networks, which immediately show geo-location of the uploader, his device and more.

To demonstrate Riot app in action, they took one of their own employees, Nick,  to showcase the potential of the software. Within couple of clicks, Riot quickly reveals Nick frequently visits Washington Nationals Park, where on one occasion he snapped a photograph of himself posing with a blonde haired woman.

“We know where Nick’s going, we know what Nick looks like,” Urch explains, “now we want to try to predict where he may be in the future.”

Riot goes further by creating a Graph diagram of Nick’s social connections, which can let anyone understand how is he connected to a group of people. e.g. he being connected to a large number of Stanford graduates immediately means he’s a Stanford pass-out. It can also predict relationships with other individuals based on frequency and type of communications. The Foursquare data can be used to display, in graph form, the top 10 places visited by tracked individuals and the times at which they visited them.

Video: RIOT in action

Is it Legal to encroach Privacy?

Data Mining from public websites for law enforcement is considered legal in most countries. For other purposes, its essentially a privacy breach which is punishable under all cases in various countries.

FBI and other Security agencies have developed a number of applications that identify bad groups and individuals and alerts them before there is a potential threat to the country.

“Social networking sites are often not transparent about what information is shared and how it is shared,” McCall said. “Users may be posting information that they believe will be viewed only by their friends, but instead, it is being viewed by government officials or pulled in by data collection services like the Riot search.”

Raytheon, which made sales worth an estimated $25bn (£16bn) in 2012, did not want its Riot demonstration video to be revealed on the grounds that it says it shows a “proof of concept” product that has not been sold to any clients.

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.

Riot was patented in December 2012, and in April 2013, it will be showcased at a US government and industry national security conference for secretive, classified innovations, where it was listed under the category “big data – analytics, algorithms.”

Whether you like it or not, the technology to hit your privacy is already there. But its better if you feel its out there for your own good. If government can sweep away the violence from streets, its worth it.

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