Laura Galante, the intelligence community’s cyber director, said social media posts were just as valuable as classified information in understanding cyber threats.
Ms. Galante leads the Cyber Threat Intelligence Center, which collects and analyzes intelligence on cyber attackers and hackers targeting governments, businesses, and critical infrastructure such as electricity and water systems.
“Snippets from tweets, details from blogs, these can be just as important to understanding the context of online events as different types of categorization or other sources,” Ms Galante said at an event for the Networking Initiative on Wednesday. “That’s why Building this common intelligence map requires this kind of deep partnership with industry partners, private sector partners and foreign partners, foreign intelligence services.”
In recent years, the federal government has become increasingly interested in analyzing people’s social media posts and partnering with tech companies.
For example, the Defense Department’s research and development arm said last year that it would spend nearly $60 million over four years on researchers developing algorithms and collecting content such as tweets, memes, political ads and blog posts.
Last year, a DARPA program manager said Twitter gave researchers working with the Defense Department access to information shared by its users to study programs to combat online influence operations.
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The intelligence community has also long been interested in Twitter. Chris Darby, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a CIA-contracted venture capital fund, told the House Permanent Intelligence Committee in 2020 that he met with leadership in Twitter’s early days and he recognized the need to invest For the analytics engine, study what happens on Twitter.
Ahead of the 2020 election, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies huddled with technology executives to crack down on online influence operations.
Federal representatives met with leaders from Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Pinterest, Reddit, Verizon and the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia.
Under the Biden administration, the federal government has formed a growing Joint Cyber Defense Partnership that has recruited tech companies to work with federal agencies to fight hackers. Participating companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft work closely with agencies such as the FBI, Department of Defense and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to deter attackers.
Information generated by ordinary internet users has proven to be critical for governments to understand foreign threats. For example, Ukraine’s digital transformation minister Mikhailo Fedorov told The Washington Post this year that his government has developed an app for citizens to post geotagged pictures and videos so the Ukrainian government can Monitor the movements of the Russian military.
Federal officials and government-funded researchers tasked with scouring the internet are also causing headaches for those concerned about online privacy, even as the government says it is committed to protecting people’s data.
DARPA program manager Brian Kettler told The Washington Times last year that government-funded researchers may unintentionally collect data on Americans when they check Twitter, but there are policies and procedures in place to prevent such collection and isolate any unintentionally collected data so that Never used.