Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

How to run your own NSA spy program

Mike Elgan | June 24, 2013
The U.S. government takes a big data approach to intelligence gathering. And so can you!

2. Use algorithmic filtering
Algorithmic "noise filters" are popping up everywhere these days, especially on social networks and social media services where users could be overwhelmed by too much information.

But thinking like the NSA, we can use these filters to cast a massively wide information net, then let the filters weed out duplicate and irrelevant information for us. (Note that I got this tip from a conversation with blogger Robert Scoble this week.)

The idea is to set up a special-purpose Twitter feed for information harvesting, then use it to follow vastly more content sources than any human could possibly keep up with.

Then, read that feed using Flipboard, Prismatic or some other site that filters content for you and that supports Twitter. (Note that these services also support Facebook and Google Reader, but Google will discontinue Reader soon. Twitter is probably your best bet.)

One thing these filters do well is eliminate content duplicates. Instead of getting 500 stories about the name of Kanye and Kim's baby, you'll get just one story -- probably the best or most popular one -- and get it over with.

Another way to think about the power of algorithmic de-duping is that normally you might not follow a news source from which only one story in 100 is unique or exclusive. But because duplicate stories are filtered out, you get only the one unique story from that source and not the 99 also-ran stories.

This elimination of duplicates frees you to follow news and content sources promiscuously, casting an ultra-wide net without fear of overloading yourself with redundant content.

3. Don't forget the new photograph recognition tech
One of the amazing spy tools at the disposal of the NSA is the ability to process photographs for face, object and location information.

These tools are at your disposal, too.

Facebook's new Graph Search feature lets you quickly experiment with finding photos by trying different queries. For example, if you search for "Pictures taken by people who work at ..." followed by a company, you'll get what you asked for. (This is one way to spy on a competitor, for example.)

Google's picture searching takes it even further, enabling you to search not only for tags, keywords, associated text and location, but also content categorization. Google can actually recognize objects, landmarks and other stuff, even if the person who posted it added no such context.

For example, if you search Google+ for something like Sydney Opera House, you'll get a massive trove of pictures of the building, many of which are not accompanied by any mention of the words Sydney, Opera or House. Google actually recognizes the building using machine intelligence.

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  4  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.