Tag Archives: In-Q-Tel

What’s Your Threat Score?

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Among the 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving In-Q-Tel funding, the research focus that stands out is social media mining and surveillance; the portfolio document lists several tech companies pursuing work in this area, including Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant….The investments appear to reflect the CIA’s increasing focus on monitoring social media. In September 2015, David Cohen, the CIA’s second-highest ranking official, spoke at length at Cornell University about a litany of challenges stemming from the new media landscape. The Islamic State’s “sophisticated use of Twitter and other social media platforms is a perfect example of the malign use of these technologies,” he said…

The latest round of In-Q-Tel investments comes as the CIA has revamped its outreach to Silicon Valley, establishing a new wing, the Directorate of Digital Innovation…

Dataminr directly licenses a stream of data from Twitter to visualize and quickly spot trends on behalf of law enforcement agencies and hedge funds, among other clients.  Geofeedia collects geotagged social media messages to monitor breaking news events in real time.Geofeedia specializes in collecting geotagged social media messages, from platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, to monitor breaking news events in real time. The company, which counts dozens of local law enforcement agencies as clients, markets its ability to track activist protests on behalf of both corporate interests and police departments.PATHAR mines social media to determine networks of association…

PATHAR’s product, Dunami, is used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to “mine Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media to determine networks of association, centers of influence and potential signs of radicalization,” according to an investigation by Reveal.

TransVoyant analyzes data points to deliver insights and predictions about global events.  TransVoyant, founded by former Lockheed Martin Vice President Dennis Groseclose, provides a similar service by analyzing multiple data points for so-called decision-makers. The firm touts its ability to monitor Twitter to spot “gang incidents” and threats to journalists. A team from TransVoyant has worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan to integrate data from satellites, radar, reconnaissance aircraft, and drones….

The recent wave of investments in social media-related companies suggests the CIA has accelerated the drive to make collection of user-generated online data a priority. Alongside its investments in start-ups, In-Q-Tel has also developed a special technology laboratory in Silicon Valley, called Lab41, to provide tools for the intelligence community to connect the dots in large sets of data.  In February, Lab41 published an article exploring the ways in which a Twitter user’s location could be predicted with a degree of certainty through the location of the user’s friends. On Github, an open source website for developers, Lab41 currently has a project to ascertain the “feasibility of using architectures such as Convolutional and Recurrent Neural Networks to classify the positive, negative, or neutral sentiment of Twitter messages towards a specific topic.”

Collecting intelligence on foreign adversaries has potential benefits for counterterrorism, but such CIA-supported surveillance technology is also used for domestic law enforcement and by the private sector to spy on activist groups.

Palantir, one of In-Q-Tel’s earliest investments in the social media analytics realm, was exposed in 2011 by the hacker group LulzSec to be innegotiation for a proposal to track labor union activists and other critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying group in Washington. The company, now celebrated as a “tech unicorn” …

Geofeedia, for instance, promotes its research into Greenpeace activists, student demonstrations, minimum wage advocates, and other political movements. Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities havecontracted with Geofeedia, as well as private firms such as the Mall of America and McDonald’s.

Lee Guthman, an executive at Geofeedia, told reporter John Knefel that his company could predict the potential for violence at Black Lives Matter protests just by using the location and sentiment of tweets. Guthman said the technology could gauge sentiment by attaching “positive and negative points” to certain phrases, while measuring “proximity of words to certain words.”

Privacy advocates, however, have expressed concern about these sorts of automated judgments.“When you have private companies deciding which algorithms get you a so-called threat score, or make you a person of interest, there’s obviously room for targeting people based on viewpoints or even unlawfully targeting people based on race or religion,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Excerpt from Lee Fang, THE CIA IS INVESTING IN FIRMS THAT MINE YOUR TWEETS AND INSTAGRAM PHOTOS, Intercept, Apr. 14, 2016

In-Q-Tel and DOD: Opera to find needles in haystack

U.S. Department of Defense, August 21, 2013, Contracts, Air Force

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), McLean, Va., and Signal
Innovations Group (SIG) Inc.*, Durham, N.C. are being awarded
indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts for Object Physics for
Exploitation and Recognition (OPERA) to obtain the capability to isolate and
model physical mechanisms responsible for exploitation performance earlier in
the exploitation development process.  Work will be performed at McLean, Va.,
and Durham, N.C., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 21, 2020.

Excerpt From the Department of Defense Website 

The Signal Innovations Group is supported by In-Q-Tel,  the technology arm of the CIA

What can Signal Innovations Group do for the Air Force?

From Website of Signal Innovations Group

The success of military objectives and the safety of military personnel depend on the ability to detect, classify, and identify harmful objects of interest, such as military vehicles, land and sea mines, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Since World War II, mines have damaged more U.S. Naval vessels than all other threats combined.  Roadside bombs and other IEDs are the single greatest threat to currently deployed coalition forces, and IEDs have been responsible for almost 40% of U.S. casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For decades, the U.S. military has been integrating advanced radar and sonar sensor systems on airborne and undersea platforms to aide in the detection, classification, and identification of air, ground, and underwater targets.  Recent growth in the development and deployment of unmanned systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs), has greatly expanded the utility of multiple sensor modalities (radar, sonar, Electro-Optical (EO)/Infrared (IR) Sensors) and the quantity of collected sensor data.  Human analysts are often tasked with manually examining sensor data.  However, the overwhelming volume of data exceeds the limited available human resources, and performance is often unreliable due to human fatigue and distraction.  Therefore, automated real-time sensor processing techniques are required to reliably detect and discriminate targets of interest while minimizing the number of false alarms.  The success of automated techniques depends on the sensor system, the observed background objects, and environmental conditions, all of which can influence the performance of automated systems.  SIG has developed advanced statistical data modeling and inference techniques that accurately and efficiently detect and discriminate targets in sensor data.  By maintaining a probabilistic framework, SIG’s predictive modeling capabilities produce more meaningful and useful results than typical discrimination strategies.  Model uncertainty can be quantified to determine if additional data is necessary, decision-making is aided by confidence values associated with target declarations, and model components and values can be probabilistically combined.  As data is collected, SIG’s techniques are capable of adapting to changes in sensors and environmental conditions, as well as exploit all available data regardless of whether object identifications are known.

SIG’s target recognition software suite offers a combination of state-of-the-art detection, classification, and identification techniques that can be tailored to any application space.  The software contains multiple statistical data models within a flexible and modular architecture that is readily optimized for any sensor modality, including the fusion of multiple sensors.  The software can be configured for onboard integration with manned or unmanned platforms to provide real-time processing or delivered as stand-alone modules to support analysts and post-mission objectives.

What is In-Q-Tel? the technological branch of the CIA

Throughout its lifetime, the CIA has operated at the cutting edge of science and technology. From the U-2 spy plane to the CORONA satellite, CIA’s “wizards of Langley” earned a reputation for bold innovation and risk taking, working in advance of the private sector and other branches of government. Much of CIA’s technology success was a result of identifying gaps and opportunities.  By the late 1990s, the pace of commercial innovation had overtaken the ability of government agencies to develop and incorporate new technologies. Private industry represented technical insights and innovation far too important to ignore. Driven by private sector R&D investment, these commercial technologies addressed many of the same information technology, biotechnology, communications, and energy challenges that faced the Intelligence Community.

In 1998, CIA identified technology as a top strategic priority, and set out a radical plan to create a new venture that would help increase the CIA’s access to private sector innovation. In-Q-Tel was chartered in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of Central Intelligence and with the support of the U.S. Congress. IQT was tasked with building a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.

From the website IQT

IQT portfolio