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New Document Shows the CIA Is Investing in Data-Mining Firms

Posted on Apr 18, 2016

  Air Force One taking off from Moffett Federal Airfield near Silicon Valley. (Flickr)

It seems the United States government has made some friends in Silicon Valley.

The Intercept has just released a previously undisclosed portfolio of investments made by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s own venture capital firm. The Intercept reports:

[A]mong the 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving In-Q-Tel funding, the research focus that stands out is social media mining and surveillance; the portfolio document lists several tech companies pursuing work in this area, including Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant. …

Those four firms, which provide unique tools to mine data from platforms such as Twitter, presented at a February “CEO Summit” in San Jose sponsored by the fund, along with other In-Q-Tel portfolio companies. …

The latest round of In-Q-Tel investments comes as the CIA has revamped its outreach to Silicon Valley, establishing a new wing, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is tasked with developing and deploying cutting-edge solutions by directly engaging the private sector. The directorate is working closely with In-Q-Tel to integrate the latest technology into agency-wide intelligence capabilities.

Christopher Darby, president and CEO of In-Q-Tel (IQT), states in the document that “IQT’s strategic investment process” encourages Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley “to engage in an open dialogue on topics relevant to our National Security interests.” Interestingly, all four firms mentioned in excerpt above refused to respond to “repeated requests” for comment from The Intercept—an open dialogue, indeed.

This new document should be shocking to anyone concerned about privacy rights and surveillance, especially because these companies have experience contracting with the government over personal data.

“Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities have contracted with Geofeedia,” states The Intercept, and in 2011, hackers revealed that Palantir was “in negotiation for a proposal to track labor union activists and other critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

These revelations come during a time of increased frustration over growing government surveillance. While companies such as Apple have made headlines for refusing to cooperate with the government, perhaps smaller companies gladly sacrifice privacy rights in return for government funding.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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