Intelligence Agencies Want to Use Google Trends to Track the Next Revolution

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Photo: Google

After their failure to see all those Middle East uprisings coming, intelligence officials are trying to branch out from using wiretaps, secret intercepts, and other classified information. These are populist revolutions, so why not go where the people are? But in order to take a systematic look at open sources like newspapers, radios, Facebook, and Twitter, they need some kind of siphon. Enter Google Trends, a feature first released five years ago. The idea goes: There are 16 million Internet users in Egypt (when they turn it on) — if agencies search in Arabic in the region, they can get a feel for what locals are interested in. "Google Trends allows us to get a sense of atmospherics," Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, an instructor at West Point, told NPR. Yeah, like say if they want to find out what homegrown uprisings were brewing on their own shores, all the FBI would have to do is consult Google Trends to know, based on the hottest topics and searches, that a revolution about either the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory or Jersey Shore season four is about to break out any second.

New Tool For U.S. Intelligence: Google? [NPR]