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Raytheon’s RIOT tracks social media users, predicts their next move

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How much can your hapless tweets and Facebook status updates reveal about you? Enough that security firm Raytheon and its RIOT program, also known as Rapid Information Overlay Technology, will make social media users regret ever publishing content on a social network.

The Guardian got its hands on a video (which you can watch below) that describes a next generation analytics service developed by Raytheon that’s meant to scrape and decipher all the important, intricate details about everything someone has published on Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. RIOT creates unique profiles from publicly available data, including details like your friends, and where you’ve been and at what time. If you’re not concerned about your location being tracked since you’ve never used the GPS feature to share your location on Foursquare or Facebook, don’t get too comfortable. If you’ve ever shared a photo taken on a GPS-enabled smartphone, RIOT is able to pull the exif metadata from photos and figure out when and where the photo was taken.

Since most content published to social networks is already publicly available, RIOT’s ability to scan this information might not sound like such a big deal. Where RIOT gets scary is how the algorithm is able to make sense of the web of relationships and associations to predict a user’s future actions. So if you’re a person of habit or routine, RIOT will know exactly what you’re up to before you’re even doing it. Maybe you’re a habitual Starbucks drinker every morning at around 7:30 AM – RIOT knows you’ll be there. Furthermore, RIOT can create and analyze a profile of you and determine whether or not you’re a security threat.

To Raytheon and its future client’s credit, earlier reports have indicated that the Taliban have been using social media to dupe important officials, and even recruit new members. Such a system could help predict and prevent threats. 

Not surprisingly, the United States government is highly interested in RIOT, which was to be presented at the U.S. government’s security conference back in April 2012.

On the matter of the Guardian getting a hold of the video, Raytheon’s spokesperson says that the video was not meant to see the light of day seeing as how the software is still a “proof of concept” that still needs to be fine tuned before being sold. However the spokesperson did confirm the authenticity of the video and says that RIOT, “is a big data analytics system design we are working on with industry, national labs and commercial partners to help turn massive amounts of data into useable information to help meet our nation’s rapidly changing security needs.”

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