CIA Gains Technology To Monitor Social Media Buzz
United States intelligence agencies will have a tool to read blog posts, Twitter tweets and chatter across the Internet. In-Q-Tel, the independent strategic investment arm of the U.S. government, has infused cash into Visible Technologies with plans to make the platform available to all 15 agencies it supports, including the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The decision represents a movement now underway by the United States government to become more familiar with emerging social media and Internet technology. In-Q-Tel also has made an investment in ThingMagic, a company deep in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.
Donald Tighe, vice president of external affairs at In-Q-Tel, says the company made the investment to introduce Visible's technology to government agencies, but declined to provide specifics. He says In-Q-Tel's average investment varies between $500,000 and $3 million per company. Since being founded in 1999, In-Q-Tel has invested about 80% in work programs and 20% in partnering with other venture capitalists, Tighe says.
Explaining how U.S. intelligence agencies might use Visible's platform, Tighe points to technology that companies install to automate analysis of customer service phone conversations. Sophisticated technology can determine when it's appropriate to bring in a supervisor to resolve disputes based on the tone of the person talking and the words being used in the conversation to convey the message.
Visible Technologies' platform helps brands to monitor the millions of posts and conversations on blogs, forums, YouTube, Twitter and other online forums. "There is a world full of countries with people who are in online chat rooms," Tighe says. "They may talk about something important to national security issues, or maybe someone becomes concerned about what they hear in one of these rooms. These scenarios are an example of the type of monitoring technology Visible Technologies offers."
The government represents a new market segment opportunity for tech companies, according to Blake Cahill, senior vice president of marketing at Visible Technologies. In this case, the CIA has become interested in a feature in one of the platforms the company offers.
Visible crawls about 500,000 Web sites daily to gather information from more than 1 million posts and conversations. In-Q-Tel's investment is not random, but rather is related to a particular project that Cahill declined to discuss. It could alter Visible's product roadmap, fast-forward it and open avenues to data that had been closed in the past, he admits.