It was only a matter of time before someone put it all together. It was only a matter of time before someone took social media about each of us from across the Internet and put it on a comprehensive, easy to use dashboard. That someone happens to be the defense contractor Raytheon. Raytheon has created a social mining database called RIOT, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology. Called “extreme scale analytics,” the system gathers vast amounts of information from social media sites and find patterns. The Guardian, which first broke the story, has termed RIOT “Google for Spies.”

Raytheon has said that it has not sold the technology – yet – to any clients, but acknowledged that it did share it with the U.S. government as part of a joint R&D effort capable of analyzing “trillions of entities from cyberspace.” The Guardian obtained a video showing how it works. With just a few clicks of a mouse, a user can “gain an entire snapshot of a person’s life.” What’s more, it can display relationships and connections between people. Just remember, it’s a proprietary system, you can’t just find it online.

Privacy activists are understandably concerned. It makes the brouhaha over Facebook’s Graph Search look like much ado about nothing. But let’s back up for a second. In most countries, it is perfectly legal to mine data from social media websites. In fact, it’s something that you and I can do, albeit on a much smaller scale without the help of a supercomputer. I would argue that it’s something to be concerned about, but it’s difficult to be too passionate about. After all, we’re the ones who are putting all of that information out there. I find it more disconcerting to wonder what happens to the data accumulated directly by the government when they can easily keep track of us via systems like EZPass, which processes highway toll payments. In that case, we’re not putting the information out there ourselves, and it’s not meant to be public.

Is this the price of doing business in a networked social media world? Is it possible to keep a low profile in life in the 21st Century? I would argue that, yes, it is a price of doing business is today’s society, but we need to have some assurance that the information that’s available to the public is information that we and not the government have put out there. There is a distinction, comparable to opting in. As for whether or not it’s possible to keep a law profile, that’s becoming increasingly difficult in a world where information and data is the coin of the realm.

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