Revealed: CIA Funding Companies that Specialize in Social Media Spying

In-Q-Tel reportedly investing in firms that monitor, collect, and analyze social media activities on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

While scraping the internet for social media users’ “digital dust” is hardly a new phenomenon, the CIA’s recent “wave of investments” points to an “accelerated” drive for data. (Photo: magicatwork/flickr/cc)

Reflecting the CIA’s “increasing focus on monitoring social media,” the spy agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, has made investments in four social media mining and surveillance firms, The Intercept revealed Thursday.

According to a document obtained by journalist Lee Fang, In-Q-Tel is funding companies that monitor, collect, and analyze social media traffic and activities on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The investments were previously undisclosed.

For instance, Fang points to PATHAR, a social media intelligence company whose product, Dunami, is already being used by the FBI to “mine Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media to determine networks of association, centers of influence and potential signs of radicalization,” as confirmed last month by the Center for Investigative Reporting. 

Another firm in In-Q-Tel’s portfolio is Dataminr, which “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,” Fang writes.

Geofeedia, also on In-Q-Tel’s list, “promotes its research into Greenpeace activists, student demonstrations, minimum wage advocates, and other political movements,” Fang reports. “Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities have contracted with Geofeedia, as well as private firms such as the Mall of America and McDonald’s.”

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