Students at a U.S. military graduate school in California are mining social media with new methods that may change the way the armed forces collect intelligence overseas.
Students and researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School have tackled two projects that could begin the shift in the way intelligence is gathered. The first is a piece of software they wrote that harnesses the Twitter API (application programming interface) and the second is a project focusing on Syria that uses many social networks to look at U.S. policy options there, though civil liberties experts say the technology concerns them.
The software for Twitter, called the Dynamic Twitter Network Analysis (DTNA), is now being field-tested by three Defense Department units overseas to help gauge public opinion in some of the world’s hot spots.
The software pulls in data from the public Twitter feed, then sorts it, live, by phrases, keywords or hashtags. The program is continuously updated, integrating a mapping feature and geo-tagged information. Intelligence officers could use DTNA to understand people’s moods about a topic, or hopefully prevent or simply respond faster in any future U.S. embassy attacks.