Technology

How Raytheon Software 'Riot' Tracks People Online (Video)

| by Michael Allen

Raytheon, the fifth largest defense contractor, has created an “extreme-scale analytics” system called Riot (Rapid Information Overlay Technology) that tracks users and gathers information from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

According to a video (below) posted by The Guardian, Raytheon has acknowledged the technology was shared with U.S. government and industry in 2010 to help build a national security system capable of analyzing trillions of entities from cyberspace.

In the video, Raytheon’s principal investigator Brian Urch explains how photographs that users post on social media sites sometimes contain detailed information.

Riot gathers this information, including the location at which the photographs were taken.

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“We’re going to track one of our own employees,” says Urch, before showing how

Riot reveals the employee '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.”

The video shows that Nick, who posts his location regularly on Foursquare, visits a gym frequently at 6 a.m. early each week. 

“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.

However, privacy advocates do not share Urch's glee in gathering this personal information via Riot.

“Social networking sites are often not transparent about what information is shared and how it is shared,” counters Ginger McCall, an attorney at the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre. “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.”

Jared Adams, a spokesman for Raytheon’s intelligence and information systems department, said in an email the The Guardian: “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.”

Source: The Guardian