CIA, Google Invest in "Future" Web Algorithm
Search giant Google and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency are investing in a company working to track Web-browsing behavior
The search giant Google and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency are investing in a company working to track Web-browsing behavior.
Both companies are funneling money into Recorded Future, a company researching a new Web-browsing analytics tool that could be used to estimate the future browsing habits of people surfing the Web.Boston-based Recorded Future scans thousands of Web sites, Twitter feeds and blog postings, analyzing connections to predict future activity. According to Recorded Future's Web site, the company's Temporal Analytics Engine sets itself apart from traditional search algorithms "by looking at the 'invisible links' between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events."
When the Temporal Analytics Engine is ready, Google plans to implement it into Google's own page retrieval and ranking algorithm for improved search results.
In the case of the CIA, it's very clear why it would be interested in the company's emerging search algorithm. Not only can the engine help connect dots between seemingly unrelated searches, events or communications; it could help to predict situations, including possible terrorism targets.
Speaking on the practice of trawling the Internet for information, then CIA Director General Michael Hayden told an audience at a 2008 conference, "Secret information isn't always the brass ring in our profession. In fact, there's a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open."
Google and the CIA have invested undisclosed amounts into the company and are advising Recorded Future. However, there is no indication that Google and the CIA are working together in that regard.
[Editor's note: For further discussion about how companies such as Google and Microsoft track users and use private data, see this July Redmond magazine article.]