How the CIA is Using Artificial Intelligence to Collect Social Media Data

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In Brief


The CIA is developing AI to advance data collection and analysis capabilities. These technologies are, and will continue to be, used for social media data.

Information is Key

The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) requires large quantities of data, collected from a variety of sources, in order to complete investigations. Since its creation in 1947, intel has typically been gathered by hand. The advent of computers has improved the process, but even more modern methods can still be painstakingly slow. Ultimately, these methods only retrieve minuscule amounts of data when compared what artificial intelligence (AI) can gather.

According to information revealed by Dawn Meyerriecks, the deputy director for technology development with the CIA, the agency currently has 137 different AI projects underway. A large portion of these ventures are collaborative efforts between researchers at the agency and developers in Silicon Valley. But emerging and developing capabilities in AI aren’t just allowing the CIA more access to data and a greater ability to sift through it. These AI programs have taken to social media, combing through countless public records (i.e. what you post online). In fact, a massive percentage of the data collected and used by the agency comes from social media. 

As you might know or have guessed, the CIA is no stranger to collecting data from social media, but with AI things are a little bit different, “What is new is the volume and velocity of collecting social media data,” said Joseph Gartin, head of the CIA’s Kent School. And, according to Chris Hurst, the chief operating officer of Stabilitas, at the Intelligence Summit, “Human behavior is data and AI is a data model.”

Automation

According to Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in a June speech, “If we were to attempt to manually exploit the commercial satellite imagery we expect to have over the next 20 years, we would need eight million imagery analysts.” He went on to state that the agency aims to use AI to automate about 75% of the current workload for analysts. And, if they use self-improving AIs as they hope to, this process will only become more efficient.

While countries like Russia are still far behind the U.S. in terms of AI development, especially as it pertains to intelligence, there seems to be a global push — if not a race — forward.  Knowledge is power, and creating technology capable of extracting, sorting, and analyzing data faster than any human or other AI system could is certainly sounds like a fast track to the top.  As Vladimir Putin recently stated on the subject of AI, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

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