Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Welcome to the Hotel Informatica

Album cover, Hotel California (1976) by the Eagles. Image Source: Eagles Fanart.

My friend, S., says that the Internet is just like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. There are some who are moving now to acquire great wealth and power from that fact. 

From the Evil Technocratic Dystopia Files: the Guardian reports on multinational defence contractor Raytheon, which has developed software that will harvest your data off social networking sites, smartphone data, and search engines to predict your future behaviour:
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 popular websites for surveillance offers a rare insight into controversial techniques that have attracted interest from intelligence and national security agencies, at the same time prompting civil liberties and online privacy concerns.

The sophisticated technology demonstrates how the same social networks that helped propel the Arab Spring revolutions can be transformed into a "Google for spies" and tapped as a means of monitoring and control.

Using Riot it is possible to gain an entire snapshot 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, it is explained by Raytheon's "principal investigator" Brian Urch that photographs users post on social networks sometimes contain latitude and longitude details – automatically embedded by smartphones within "exif header data."

Riot pulls out this information, showing not only the photographs posted onto social networks by individuals, but also the location at which the photographs were taken.

"We're going to track one of our own employees," Urch says in the video, before bringing up pictures of "Nick," a Raytheon staff member used as an example target. With information gathered from social networks, Riot quickly reveals Nick frequently visits Washington Nationals Park, where on one occasion he snapped a photograph of himself posing with a blonde haired woman.

"We know where Nick's going, we know what Nick looks like," Urch explains, "now we want to try to predict where he may be in the future."

Riot can display on a spider diagram the associations and relationships between individuals online by looking at who they have communicated with over Twitter. It can also mine data from 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 by tracked individuals and the times at which they visited them.

The video shows that Nick, who posts his location regularly on Foursquare, visits a gym frequently at 6am early each week. Urch quips: "So if you ever did want to try to get hold of Nick, or maybe get hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6am on a Monday."

Mining from public websites for law enforcement is considered legal in most countries. In February last year, for instance, the FBI requested help to develop a social-media mining application for monitoring "bad actors or groups".

However, Ginger McCall, an attorney at the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, said the Raytheon technology raised concerns about how troves of user data could be covertly collected without oversight or regulation. ...

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 [such as social security numbers, bank or other financial account information] being disclosed."

In December, Riot was featured in a newly published patent Raytheon is pursuing for a system designed to gather data on people from social networks, blogs and other sources to identify whether they should be judged 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."

According to records published by the US government's trade controls department, the technology has been designated an "EAR99" item under export regulations, which means it "can be shipped without a licence to most destinations under most circumstances".
For more on this system, dubbed 'Google for Spies,' see here and here and below. When are privacy rights advocates going to look into allowing individuals to copyright data from their own personal lives, movements, photos, conversations, social networking and other activities? Then individuals could impose copyright protection upon their personal data, as published property that they inherently own, and they could charge companies for use of that data.

Video demo of Riot software. Video Source: Guardian via Youtube.
Dark Desert Highway: Moonrise on the Baja Highway from California to Mexico. Image Source: H. and C. Kramer via Sun Cruiser Media.

Hotel California

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
'this could be heaven or this could be hell'
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel california
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the captain,
'please bring me my wine'
He said, 'we haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine'
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin' it up at the hotel california
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said 'we are all just prisoners here, of our own device'
And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
'relax,' said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!


  1. Oops... I believe the line is "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

    1. Thanks for the catch, Anon, of course you're right.

  2. What an interesting interpretation of privacy the company is using. They know that this employee is at the gym every Monday, know that he's visiting certain websites, who calls him regularly, where he lives. But thank god they don't have any "personally identifiable information"!

    1. Yeah, but this demo about the employee is not for a specific company only; it's made by a software maker, to be sold to any organization willing to pay the price for the software so that they can monitor not just employees - but anyone at all in the world who strikes their fancy.

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