The FBI wants to spider social media to prepare for the worst

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is creating a tool that will crawl Facebook, Twitter and more to catch emergencies before they happen.

According to a posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SOIC) is feeling out the IT industry to see if anyone can create a “social media application.” The application should be able to spider through public content posted on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It should also be intelligent enough to pick out certain key words and phrases that indicate a certain event is taking place. The point of the application is to give the government readiness when dealing with emergencies, terrorist situations and other situations needing immediate response.

“The application must be infinitely flexible and have the ability to adapt quickly to changing threats to maintain the strategic and tactical advantage,” the Request for Information said, “The purpose of this effort is to meet the outlined objectives…for the enhancement [of] FBI SOIC’s overall situation awareness and improved strategic decision making.”

The tool would be used in “reconnaisance and surveillance missions, National Special Security Events (NSS) planning, NSSE operations, SOIC operations, counter intelligence, terrorism, and more.

Cybercrime is also in the FBI’s mind when creating this tool. With onslaught of cyber criminals working in large groups, not necessarily in one place, social media has been used as a place for planning attacks. For instance, the hacktivist group Anonymous used Twitter to spread the word about denial of service attacks being used to take down the Department of Justice website last week.

While Facebook still remains a fairly private ground for content, firehoses like Twitter supply news the second it occurs. Indeed, we even tweet about important events before we even know they’re important. For example, one man even live blogged Osama bin Laden’s capture on Twitter without realizing what he was hearing. Catching and decoding these types of social media messages may act as essential insight for national security advisors.

In order to identify the location of these events the pulled data should be compiled on a map. This map may show where conversations are taking place, or potentially places they are referring to. The FBI’s preferred maps for use in the app are Google Maps, Google 3D Maps, ESRI and Yahoo Maps. The map’s user interface should include different layers including a layer for where US domestic terror events may be happening, data about worldwide terror events, where US embassies, consulates and military installations are globally, weather conditions, and a video of traffic in the area.

Think you’re up to the task? Check out the job listing here.

FBI image via Shutterstock, hat tip NewScientist