New Scientist magazine reveals that the National Security Agency is funding research into how to add information from social networking site MySpace listings to profiles of individuals garnered from banking, retail and property records.
As detailed in a footnote to a paper entitled Semantic Analytics on Social Networks, data from online social networks and other databases can be combined to uncover facts about people. The footnote said the work was part-funded by an organization known as ARDA, which stands for Advanced Research Development Activity.
Published in January by the Congressional Research Service, a report named Data Mining and Homeland Security, noted that part of ARDA's role is to promote integration of heretofore format-incompatible data sets about people- data sets that could be combined to generate more complete profiles of individuals under suspicion for potential terrorist links.
To facilitate this integration, research is believed to be underway on Ressource Description Framework, a way of tagging data in a way that will promote more common uniformity with other data.
"By adding online social networking data to its phone analyses, the NSA could connect people at deeper levels, through shared activities, such as taking flying lessons," writes article author Paul Marks.
Complete integration of such databases with phone calling records now believed to be in the possession of the NSA could be utilized in this manner:
Calls from say, Pakistan to the U.S. could be data-mined, and if the recipients of those calls (identified from their phone numbers) called several other numbers within a few hours after receiving those calls from Pakistan, those other numbers could be checked for suspected terrorist links.
And with a list handy of those who have been called available, it wouldn't take much to go to MySpace (or an archived MySpace repository), and search for MySpace users who have posted personally identifiable information that would indicate the need to explore their backgrounds further. Information such as the "flying lessons" example Marks writes about.
I'll do you one better. I believe that computer facial matching software will soon advance to the point where photos stored on NSA computers of terrorist suspects could then be mapped for similarities to photos on MySpace and other social networking sites.