Raytheon + Social Networks = Data Mining Riot

“Users may be posting information that they believe will be viewed only by their friends, but instead, it is being viewed by government officials or pulled in by data collection services like the Riot search.”

By RYAN GALLAGHER | SMH | FEBRUARY 12, 2013

A multinational security firm has secretly developed software capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites.

A video obtained by the Guardian reveals how an “extreme-scale analytics” system created by Raytheon, the world’s fifth largest defence contractor, can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

Raytheon says it has not sold the software – named Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology – to any clients. But the Massachusetts-based company has acknowledged the technology was shared with US government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analysing “trillions of entities” from cyberspace.

The power of Riot to harness websites for surveillance offers a rare insight into techniques that have attracted interest from intelligence and national security agencies, at the same time prompting civil liberties and online privacy concerns.

Using Riot it is possible to gain a picture of a person’s life – their friends, the places they visit charted on a map – in little more than a few clicks of a button.

In the video obtained by the Guardian, Raytheon’s “principal investigator” Brian Urch explains that photographs which users post on social networks sometimes contain latitude and longitude details – automatically embedded by smartphones within so-called “exif header data”. Riot pulls out this information, showing the location at which the pictures were taken. Riot can display online associations and relationships using Twitter and Facebook and sift GPS location information from Foursquare, a mobile phone app used by more than 25 million people to alert friends of their whereabouts. The Foursquare data can be used to display, in graph form, the top 10 places visited and the times at which they visited them.

Mining from public websites for law enforcement is considered legal in most countries. But, Ginger McCall, a lawyer at the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, said the Raytheon technology raised concerns about how user data could be covertly collected without oversight or regulation.

“Users may be posting information that they believe will be viewed only by their friends, but instead, it is being viewed by government officials or pulled in by data collection services like the Riot search.”

Raytheon, which made sales worth an estimated US$25 billion in 2012, did not want its Riot demonstration video to be revealed on the grounds that it says it shows a “proof of concept” product that has not been sold to any clients.

Jared Adams, a spokesman for Raytheon’s intelligence and information systems department, said in an email: “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. Its innovative privacy features are the most robust that we’re aware of, enabling the sharing and analysis of data without personally identifiable information being disclosed.”

In December, Riot was featured in a new patent Raytheon is pursuing for a system to gather data on people from social networks, blogs and other sources to identify whether they might be a security risk.

In April, Riot was scheduled to be showcased at a US government and industry national security conference for secretive, classified innovations, where it was listed under the category “big data – analytics, algorithms”.

Salmonella Outbreak: Cargill recalls Turkey Meat

36 million pounds of Turkey meat, to be exact. Some 50 million Americans get sick every year from food poisoning.

Associated Press
August 4, 2011

Meat giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has killed one person in California and sickened at least 76 others.

Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been reported in 26 states coast to coast.

Cargill said Wednesday that it is recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company’s Springdale, Ark., plant from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2 due to possible contamination from the strain of salmonella linked to the illnesses.

Company officials said that all ground turkey production has been suspended at the plant until the company is able to determine the source of the outbreak.

“Given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace,” said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s turkey processing business.

The Minnesota-based company said it was initiating the recall after its own internal investigation, an Agriculture Department investigation and information about the illnesses released by the CDC this week.

All of the packages recalled include the code “Est. P-963” on the label, according to Cargill. The packages were labeled with many different brands, including Cargill’s Honeysuckle White.

The CDC said this week that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed contamination with the same strain of salmonella, though those samples had not been specifically linked to the illnesses. The CDC said preliminary information showed that three of those samples were linked to the same production establishment, but it did not name that plant.

A chart on the CDC’s website shows cases have occurred every month since early March, with spikes in May and early June. The latest reported cases were in mid-July, although the CDC said some recent cases may not have been reported yet.

The CDC said the strain is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, which can make treatment more difficult. The agency said 38 percent of those sickened were hospitalized.

The states with the highest number sickened were Michigan and Ohio, 10 illnesses each, while nine illnesses were reported in Texas. Illinois had seven, California six and Pennsylvania five.

The remaining states have between one and three reported illnesses linked to the outbreak, according to the CDC: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans each year get sick from food poisoning, including about 3,000 who die. Salmonella causes most of these cases and federal health officials say they’ve made virtually no progress against it.

Government officials say that even contaminated ground turkey is safe to eat if it is cooked to 165 degrees. But it’s also important that raw meat be handled properly before it is cooked and that people wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling the meat. Turkey and other meats should also be properly refrigerated or frozen and leftovers heated.

The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight hours to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It can be life-threatening to some with weakened immune systems.

Cargill executive Willardsen said, “Public health and the safety of consumers cannot be compromised.”

“It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products,” he said, “and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry.”