Desktop version

Home arrow Communication

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Developing Monitoring Technology for Social Media Warfare

Law enforcement, emergency management agencies, intelligence gathering and analysis agencies, the U.S. Department of State, and national security agencies such as the DHS all have a need to monitor and mine publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, message boards, and social media platforms to collect information used in providing situational awareness and to fight domestic and international terrorism. The U.S. Congress has made it clear that publicly available social media monitoring of current and former public officials who are victims of incidents or activities related to homeland security and of terrorists, drug cartel leaders, or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of homeland security interest is a legal and prudent activity. Social media warfare monitors are employed by these agencies as well as probably many others around the world. The social nature of open-source information suggests that significant investments need to be made in mapping and mining these sources [6].

Advances in science and technology provide a unique opportunity to transform intelligence applying expanded analytic, collection, and processing capabilities, and to improve cross-component collaboration through the intelligence community system for information sharing. Innovative programs such as In-Q-Tel provide the CIA and the intelligence community with effective reach into the cutting-edge creativity of the U.S. private sector [7].

The CIA has supported the development of technology since the 1960s when it supported the development of lithium-ion batteries because certain operational missions required long-lasting batteries of various shapes and sizes. The lithium- ion battery improved the performance of surveillance equipment and prolonged the operation of reconnaissance satellites. In the early 1970s, the CIA passed the technology to the medical community where it was used in heart pacemakers.

In February 2003, the CIA-funded strategic investor In-Q-Tel made an investment in Keyhole, Inc. Keyhole was a pioneer of interactive 3D Earth visualization and creator of the Earth viewer 3D system. The CIA worked closely with other intelligence community organizations to tailor Keyhole’s systems to meet operational needs. The technology was also useful to multiple TV networks using Earthviewer 3D: to fly over Iraqi cities during news coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The popularity of this technology eventually caught the attention of Google, which acquired Keyhole in 2004. This technology is now known as Google Earth [8].

To keep up with the boom in innovations in the private sector, especially in information technology (IT), the CIA assembled a team of senior staff and outside consultants and lawyers in 1998 to design an entity to partner with industry in accelerated solutions to IT problems facing the intelligence community. After meeting with investment bankers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and members of Congress and staff, the team conceived what is now known as In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel is a congressionally created, government-funded non-profit venture capital firm that seeks to accelerate market introduction of products that could benefit U.S. intelligence efforts. In-Q-Tel was created in 1998 but did not get fully underway until later. In-Q-Tel generally does not get involved in technologies until they are well on their way to development or in the prototype stage. It does not yet have much of a track record and no one has analyzed how it might function in the energy market. Moreover, the expanding use of government-funded firms with equity in private companies could raise questions about the appropriate role of government in the financial marketplace. In-Q-Tel started off making investments primarily in IT, including Internet security, data integration, imagery analysis, and language translation. These investments have helped government agencies to keep up with technology developments in the commercial marketplace, and helped the intelligence community to mold, develop, and deploy crucial technologies in a timely manner.

Small or newer companies often do not to target the U.S. federal government market because it can be difficult to target or slow to access. Because those companies often need to penetrate their markets quickly to generate cash flow, government customers can miss the chance to influence product development. Moreover, private venture capital firms sometimes discourage small companies they invest in from doing business with the government because of the complexity of the procurement process and long lead time on procurement decisions. This means that agencies are often two to three years behind the commercial market for technology, especially in areas like IT where there is rapid innovation.

A Board of Trustees oversees In-Q-Tel’ s direction, strategy, and policies. In-Q-Tel offers the CIA a mechanism by which to involve industry in solving the specific technology problems faced by its one customer, the intelligence community [9]. In-Q-Tel has funded, in part, several technology companies developing social media mining and monitoring capabilities, including Platfora, Dataminr, Geofeedia, Pathar, Basis Technology, and TransVoyant.

In-Q-Tel’s 2015 revenue was $91.8 million and its 2014 revenue was $130.6 million. It had 121 employees in 2014 with a salary expenditure of $30.0 million. Net assets were $326.8 million. In 2014, the CEO was paid $1.5 million and the executive vice president and managing partner was paid $1.8 million. In-Q-Tel received $93.8 million in government grants in 2014 and held publicly traded securities valued at $211 million. Since 1999, In-Q-Tel has invested in over 250 companies and raised $8.9 billion in private sector funds [10].

In 2014, In-Q-Tel invested $1.9 million in Platfora, a data analytics company that has since been acquired by Workday. Platfora provides several analytic capabilities including the analysis of IT system security attacks. Another $1.5 million was invested in Protonex, which develops portable power solutions for the military. Expect Labs, the creator of the MindMeld app, which is an intelligent assistant that understands conversations and finds information one needs before one has to search for it, received a $1.5 million investment from In-Q-Tel in 2014 [10].

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics