Google, CIA invest equal amounts in company to predict future

Posted Jul 30, 2010 by R. C. Camphausen
Google and the CIA have invested in a company called Recorded Future, a firm that monitors the Web in real time. Saying it uses the information to predict the future, the company describes its service as "the ultimate tool for open-source intelligence."
Recorded Future
On their secure website, Recorded Future features the sentence: "What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens."
In a language designed to be mouth-watering to sci-Fi fans and market analysts, they call the soft- and hardware configuration in use to monitor the Internet in real time "the world's first Temporal Analytics Engine." They believe it's a new predictive tool that allows one to analyze and visualize the future, past or present.
Thanks to Wired's Danger Room feature, we now know that two parties have recently invested each up to $10 million into Recorded Future. For one, that's Google Ventures, and the other one is known as In-Q-Tel (or IQT), an investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community. Of further interest is another and surprising player: Amazon — because Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on servers.
And what are these events being indexed and used for analysis and predictions? They are people's movements on the Web, culled from Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, and other sites, and from the millions of posts and conversations taking place on blogs ... which is what they call 'open-source intelligence.'
Wired’s defence analyst Noah Schachtman describes the trend-spotter by saying that its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search”, and does so by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.” According to the company's own portfolio, this means that it “continually scans thousands of news publications, blogs, niche sources, trade publications, government web sites, financial databases and more,” sifting through millions of posts and conversations taking place in order to “assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”
Recorded Future and its software then plots the recorded chatter and is able to show a profile, an "online momentum” for any given event. Wired quotes an enthusiastic company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science as saying “The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases.”
While Google will surely interested in building a picture of the growth of trends in advertising and sales, the CIA, naturally, has other uses in mind, clearly explained by the website Bit-Tech. The author of that article, Gareth Halfacree, says that the CIA will be using Recorded Future for providing its monitoring and predictive services to government agencies in the name of anti-terrorism, and perhaps as a tool that will be used to predict other crimes as well.
Bit-Tech also poses the question we should all ask ourselves now: "Are you concerned that Google is getting a little too friendly with the CIA, or is this just a case of two separate entities investing in the same company for their own unique reasons?"