Researchers tracking social media and Web searches have detected outbreaks of the flu and rare diseases in Latin America by up to two weeks before they were reported by local news media or government health agencies, a U.S. intelligence official told USA TODAY. Working at a series of universities and companies around the country, the researchers are part of a program led by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) that is aimed at anticipating critical societal events, such as disease outbreaks, violent uprisings or economic crises before they appear in the news.
“The Human Terrain System sought to bring a degree of anthropological and interpretive acumen to a military that badly needed it,” she writes. “But it came too late, alienated too many anthropologists and was thrown together too quickly and sloppily to achieve many of its goals in Afghanistan. Taxpayers have spent more than $600 million on the deeply flawed program; it has occasionally benefited soldiers, but its slipshod construction and murky aims have also put Afghans and Americans at risk.”
A smartphone app that launches this week gives the health insurance company Aetna access to detailed user health-tracking data. As costs spiral upward, health-care companies could turn to such apps as a way to monitor customers and encourage healthy behavior.
At MIT Technology Review’s Mobile Summit in San Francisco last week, Martha Wofford, consumer platform vice president at Aetna, said the company would launch an app called CarePass to serve as a portal for an individual’s health-related activity and, if he allows it, his medical records, too.
Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ has been covertly gathering information from leading internet companies through a secret US spy programme, it was reported today.
The Guardian said that it had obtained documents showing that GCHQ had access to the Prism system, set up by America’s National Security Agency (NSA), since at least June 2010. The documents were said to show that the British agency, had generated 197 intelligence reports through the system in the 12 months to May 2012 – a 137 per cent increase on the previous year.
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
A briefing note prepared for the country’s top soldier shows the army has pushed the military’s chief of intelligence to permanently staff “high-readiness” intelligence positions within brigades and all-source intelligence centres that could be called upon to deploy overseas.
The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, also show the army is anxious to protect its network of human sources and operatives, known as HUMINT, and to better resource its counter-intelligence abilities.
The U.S. government’s capability to monitor public health trends and unusual occurrences through social media analytics is set for enhancement. Accenture Federal Services said it received a one-year, $3 million contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to assist in the Office of Health Affairs to manage, link and analyze data from social media networks in real time to protect the public in the event of a national health emergency.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest: All of them could be the source of valuable intelligence that the UK’s intelligence agencies want to know about. And now, government eavesdropping and security agency GCHQ is developing new tools to sift through them for nuggets of useful data.
The Cheltenham-based organisation is recruiting maths, physics and computing experts to devise groundbreaking algorithms that will automatically extract information from huge volumes of speech, text and image content gathered “across the full range of modern communications media”.