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Homeland Security Mining Social Media For Signs of Bio Attacks

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the friend-your-anthrax dept.

Facebook 96

jjp9999 writes "Nextgov reports, 'The Homeland Security Department has commissioned Accenture to test technology that mines open social networks for indications of pandemics, according to the vendor.' This will kick off a year-long biosurveillance program, costing $3 million, that will log trends in public health by looking through public posts. This ties back to White House guidelines released in July that ask federal agencies to 'Consider social media as a force multiplier that can empower individuals and communities to provide early warning and global situational awareness.'"

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96 comments

United Panic of 'merica. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955537)

Pew pew.

Are we really that surprised? (4, Insightful)

xystren (522982) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955539)

As annoying as social media may be, it does provide sources of information... And people that use social media, appear so willing to disclose anything and everything regarding their personal life. So, why wouldn't DHS or health departments not want to use this type and source of information?

HIV, Herpes, etc ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955625)

Those diseases or anything tied to sex would never be divulged on a social media site.

Then again, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if there was a "I have Herpes an proud of it!" group on Facebook - considering how narcissistic and self-entitled people are these days.

Re:HIV, Herpes, etc ... (3, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955689)

Then again, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if there was a "I have Herpes an proud of it!" group on Facebook - considering how narcissistic and self-entitled people are these days.

That would probably be a much more accurate predictor of people with stupidly easily guessed passwords, or people who don't lock their phone, or people who leave their PC logged in and walk away... More of a computer security predictor than a bio security predictor.

Now "I survived the H1N1 flu" MIGHT be actually useful because I'm not seeing it turned into a joke prop. Maybe flu researchers would play tricks on each other or something but 99% of the population would use it seriously, probably.

Re:HIV, Herpes, etc ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955691)

Just join it already and quit talking about it here. You know you want to and it would probably be a good experience for you to converse with others you have Herpes.

Re:HIV, Herpes, etc ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955711)

And it would have a lot of members, considering that you can force other people into FB groups. "LOL, I signed billybob up for the EverySocialDisease group and he won't see a computer until after he gets back from his hunting trip!"

Re:Are we really that surprised? (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955659)

What shut down the crack industry was a single cop who pursued tighter controls over the purchase and shipment of pseudoephedrine.
So today you have to show your ID in order to buy sinus meds containing that drug.

Point is, looking for biological attack in digital world is a greater degree of spending than what it is likely to pay off is ever.

Re:Are we really that surprised? (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956197)

You mean methamphetamine, not crack. Meth is cooked up using ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, components of over the counter nasal decongestants. Crack is pretty much cocaine that is mixed with baking soda and "cooked" until hard and broken up into little chunks otherwise knows as "rocks".

Re:Are we really that surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955757)

The CDC has been doing this for a very long time. Their global disease surveillance system tracks information coming from hospitals, health centers, newspaper reports, etc. to keep an eye on the spread of diseases. Using digital media, even self-reported social media is a natural extension.

Unfortunately, this is being done under the umbrella of the DHS when it would be better off with the CDC under HHS.

Re:Are we really that surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955933)

"oh god ive got this severe rash on my face and balls!!! its burning!!!"

Homeland Security Department likes this

All Data Will Be Mined (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956983)

personally i think that the TLAs should see about accessing ANY PUBLIC SOURCE of data they can get hands on.

now of course i think that there should be full disclosure of any sources they are using and it should not be illegal to create "flack clouds" and if you set something in a service to Private then it should be considered NONPUBLIC.

Re:Are we really that surprised? (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | about a year and a half ago | (#41959239)

As annoying as social media may be, it does provide sources of information...

DHS is on the lookout for the nefarious 4chan terrorist Ahsheet Mahdrawz; they believe he is planning to attack NYC with a "dirty bomb".

Communism (1, Offtopic)

sepiroth (598780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955541)

Congratulations. I thought twice before saying anything outloud which could be overheard by authorities during the communism era. I was born in communism and I'm going to die in communism. Thank you. (I know it's not technically communism but you know)

Re:Communism (0)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955645)

Congratulations. I thought twice before saying anything outloud which could be overheard by authorities during the communism era. I was born in communism and I'm going to die in communism. Thank you. (I know it's not technically communism but you know)

Wait...so you're complaining that an organization tasked to defend the U.S. and all citizens therefor from any threat, uses public available data (made public by the owners by their own free will) to check if there's a possible attack with a biological/chemical weapon (or a simple pandemic)...so that they can react faster and safe more lifes?! And you call that communism?! Did I miss something important...except that whole "the government is evil and wants into my panties" bullshit?

Re:Communism (1)

sepiroth (598780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955889)

Don't be mistaken it will stay with the USA. Other countries will follow happily.
Right I am complaining about just that. It is so, anything can be viewed as threat. And surely it begins with weapons of mass destruction. It end with anything you say or do could be used against you. Should I feel guilty for something I say? Do I have to think twice before I say something on social media? I should feel the same as in totalitarianism (thanks AC).

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956013)

And you call that communism?! Did I miss something important...except that whole "the government is evil and wants into my panties" bullshit?

communism, paranoia... same difference. It's still stupid, and controlling. There are millions of people in the world who could easily destroy large communities, infrastructures, and resources and evade getting caught. Anyone stupid enough to disclose their motives, especially on a social network, is probably too stupid to pull off an attack of anyway. Personally, if I was inclined to commit a terrorist attack, I'd start with opening a facebook account and spewing posts like yours on every forum I could find -- lots of advantages to that if one thinks it through.

And it's actually fascism, not communism, because the U.S. is trolling people to mark those who won't bow down to State interests.
Remember, the government is the people, and because everyone seems to want in my panties, I think it's a reasonable inference that "the government is evil and wants into my panties" is not b$%#*t.

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956511)

Riiight. "an organization tasked to defend the U.S. and all citizens therefor from any threat". Don't you have a better joke than that?
Homeland Security is as much about that, as Miniluv is about love and friendship and fluffy bunnies, and Minitrue is about truth and facts.
Its whole point is to scaremonger people into obedience under the bullshit excuse of "foreign threats"... which strangely always can be tracked back to the US somehow financing and creating it in the first place:
- Iran: Military financed and armed by the US, as a stronghold against "the reds", then "turned against us".
- Iraq/Saddam: Financed and armed by the US, as a stronghold against Iran, then "turned against us" [when Saddam didn't want to attack Iran and attacker Kuwait instead].
- Al Qaeda: US money went to the Pakistani [religious fundamentalist] government to "fight terrorism"... Which, by Pakistani definition means fighting the US... so they handed all they money to the Al Qaeda training camps in the north-west. And the US fully knew this, yet kept the payments going!
- And finally the Taliban: Pakistani mercenaries hired out of those same Pakistani training camps, to "fight the red invasion" of Afghanistan.
Granted, this is [obviously] somewhat simplified. But you get the gist of it.

If your CIA would stop that shit, and stop meddling with foreign countries like that, you wouldn't need a "Homeland Security", let alone something as idiotic as the TSA, which ONLY scans planes that can't contain actual terrorists... as those would come from *outside* the country, and *never land in the US* (unless you count flying into a building an "landing"). Why do you think that is? Why ONLY planes and people that are practically guaranteed not to be a problem?
Simple: Because it NEVER was about preventing "terrorist threats" ever. It always was about training the population to obey and consider such a treatment, which you usually only see in extremist totalitarian nightmare states, to be "normal".

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41957657)

Great post, except you misspelled "gubbamint".

sepiroth (598780) obviously doesn't know WTF he's talking about.

Mostly though, this was a case of BAD SUMMARY. A pandemic, esp. a naturally occurring one, is NOT, I repeat, NOT a "Bio Attack". Way to go, though, trying to use fear to pique interest in your bullshit.

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41959987)

Wait...so you're complaining that an organization tasked to defend the U.S. and all citizens therefor from any threat ...

Ha, I say again HA! Like all government spooks, they are only interested in protecting politicians and the 1%. Ordinary citizens will not be told unless the 1% would profit from it.

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41960527)

... tasked to defend the U.S. and all citizens ...

No, the DHS is tasked with scaring terrorists into obedience. Have you been an obedient citizen today? Obviously the DHS should bug every bench, chair and bed to ensure your safety and compliance. George Orwell was a visionary.

... check if there's a possible attack with a biological/chemical weapon ...

Ahh! That's why the DHS needs to check every car that uses a public highway. Don't worry that you didn't ask for the search of your 'legally it's not private property' and waste of your time. After all, they already do it for for airplanes. It will, to quote you, "safe more lifes".

... you call that communism ...

Communism is essentially an economic model and requires a certain political system to support it. Therein lies the problem; the union of revenue-generating and citizen-empowering duties creates a schizophrenia that acheives the exact opposite. The US as a plutonomy also has this problem but no-one admits that 'buying the government' is bad for the 99%-ers.

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956211)

TIL: sepiroth has no fucking clue what communism is

Re:Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41958519)

I remember growing up and hearing the evils of communism. As I get older, more and more of those things are being done here.

Why is this being done by the law enforcement style DHS? This should be done by NHS. I suspect it's just an excuse to start monitoring everything and not just health.

Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disease (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955543)

Some sort of brain affliction that makes people distrust and hate the dept. of Homeland Security. I hear it's spreading fast...

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (2)

danbuter (2019760) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955597)

Probably because Homeland Security has been given almost unlimited rights to detain you forever for no reason whatsoever, often without a warrant or any other documentation.

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (2)

jasper160 (2642717) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955679)

No way, Obama would never do that.

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955745)

He may not have caused the initial widening, but he'd gladly take advantage of sloppy seconds.

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956015)

He may not have caused the initial widening, but he'd gladly take advantage of sloppy seconds.

In the context of being horsefucked up the ass by an out-of-control government, that's one scary image.

Gee, thanks.

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (1)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956023)

Sometimes, he acts like he's a republican.

Greater Internet Theory at work ... (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955853)

If you're interested on the effects of the internet on (stupid) internet behaviour, Clay Shirky [wikipedia.org] has a few great books. He has an interesting scientific explanation of the John Gabriel Greater Internet Theory, too.

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956315)

Could they not use this for the good and warn people about e.g. gonorrhea the moment you post that you hooked up with a person who Googled it a few days earlier and then called their doctor for an appointment.
Probably even cross referencing with other people who have been in contact with that person and have been diagnosed positive already.

I mean, they have all the information anyway and it will show that the government is out to protect us from harm. Right?

Re:Yeah they're probably detecting a strange disea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41963709)

Aatshuuu!! It's bioterr...Aatshuuu!!

Brilliant (1)

BlindRobin (768267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955567)

Now they will see pandemics of hangovers and butt hurt...

Re:Brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41975401)

So, who is this 'Accenture'? Where are they? Do they follow good security
measures with the data they have processed? Is there going to be a huge slag
pile of data out back behind their office where all the data they have mined
is piled up when they have looked at it? Can anyone pick through that pile?
I mean, if taxpayer money paid for it, I should be able to pick through it,
since I paid for it...

Looking in the digital world for signs of.... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955581)

...Biological attack....

No wonder we are in such huge debt...

Re:Looking in the digital world for signs of.... (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956461)

...Biological attack....

No wonder we are in such huge debt...

You're kidding, right?

First of all, the "social media" scene is specifically intended to reflect the real world, of which illness is a component. I can't help but think that you might get advance warning of all sorts of stuff that would take doctors several days to send in mandatory CDC disease reports on.

And timely? What was the world's first indication of the Osama Bin Laden raid in progress? Right, some dude's tweet in Pakistan.

And $3 million? What component of a warplane could you buy for that? If you can catch a man-made -- or even a plain-old organic -- disease outbreak early, you'd only need to prevent a handful of premature deaths to be worth the pricetag.

Much rather see restaurant monitoring (0)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955587)

I'd much rather see restaurant monitoring. You should be able to eat at McD and taco bell w/o spending the next 24 hours on the porcelain throne. However for practical reasons everyone knows you can't, locally. Its NOT the type of food... You can eat greasy burgers at a regional chain and giant burritos at a national specialty chain all week without getting food poisoning because they are actually sanitary. I have noticed a trend that places that actively ignore immigration laws oddly enough seem to ignore sanitation and food safety regulations, who ever wouldda thunk it, so after several food poisoning incidents I don't go to restaurants staffed exclusively by illegals.

Note that this monitoring is fed level / national. Food inspection is done locally but you'd think an entrepreneur could set up a business to feed them leads. I'm sure the PR/marketing people would like to know which of their restaurants make people sick. Another interesting aspect would be calculating 4sq checkins vs twitter reports of food poisoning and the "winners" use the stats in their commercials as the restaurant least likely to make people sick or whatever.

I will say my local Culvers (a regional burger joint) never got me sick not once never, the flypaper covered with flies in the kitchen and smelly fly filled bathroom Wendys was about 50/50 odds, the taco bell looks clean but also 50/50 odds, and you may as well say last rites and/or sell pedialyte/gatorade and immodium with every meal instead of kiddie meal toys at the local festering McDonalds. This information, replicated by a couple million online and statistically analyzed and correlated, should be monetizable in many different ways, not just the "24" "fox news" "neocon" "lets keep them scared to keep them controlled" fatherland security goon squads.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955641)

... I don't go to restaurants staffed exclusively by illegals.

Out of interest, how do you determine this - do you require ID, base it only on looks, or on how much English they can speak? Other than the fact that you appear to be confusing illegal immigrants with immegrants, you've got a valid point.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955747)

you appear to be confusing illegal immigrants with immegrants

You appear to be confusing "e"s and "i"s.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956557)

... I don't go to restaurants staffed exclusively by illegals.

Out of interest, how do you determine this - do you require ID, base it only on looks, or on how much English they can speak? Other than the fact that you appear to be confusing illegal immigrants with immegrants, you've got a valid point.

Tradition. The "dirty, disease carrying immigrants" thing is a time-honored epithet hurled at every new nationality or ethnic group coming to the US.

The irony in this case is the "illegals" being referred to in this case are the natives of this continent whose ranks were decimated by Smallpox, etc. brought by whites. "Real Americans" are just pissed the Spaniards did such a suck-ass job of wiping them out in their areas compared to the English.

I think I better post this AC, cause truth hurts.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41958459)

I think I better post this AC, cause truth hurts.

LOL oh spare me before I hurt myself laughing. Very long and complicated and unlikely story vs ... Occams razor suggests that maybe, just maybe, if management feels some laws and regulations WRT to documentation and filling out W-2 forms are optional for them, maybe, just maybe, they might also think some food safety laws and regulations are also optional for them. Simplest solution that makes sense is probably the most likely to be correct.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955795)

You never know, perhaps inspection places already do this kind of thing manually, or even have automatic systems in place. It would be a bad idea to make it well known though, otherwise there would also be a healthy industry in Twitter misinformation to kill competitors.. and again, maybe there already are such services in place. I don't really get involved in Twitter myself, but these kind of uses make it sound almost interesting.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955913)

I'd much rather see restaurant monitoring. You should be able to eat at McD and taco bell w/o spending the next 24 hours on the porcelain throne.

What kind of digestive problem(s) do people like you have??

I have absolutely no problem eating fast food. No one I know has any problems, either.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956589)

Sometimes the kids working fast food masturbate into the burgers. With the burgers, actually. See my other post:

http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3245725&cid=41956561

Under the correct circumstances, this can cause a minor case of food poisoning.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41958325)

I'd much rather see restaurant monitoring. You should be able to eat at McD and taco bell w/o spending the next 24 hours on the porcelain throne.

What kind of digestive problem(s) do people like you have??

I have absolutely no problem eating fast food. No one I know has any problems, either.

Exactly like I wrote, it depends on your locale.

Where I live, restaurant A makes everyone sick every time they go there especially if they buy an egg-based breakfast, I assume they're only still in business because of interstate travelers and/or being a corporate franchise the rest of the company is keeping them afloat. Restaurant B upon reflection I'd give 10% to 25% odds you'll get sick, no real pattern. Are you feeling lucky, punk? Its a pity because as fast food goes it actually tastes pretty good. Restaurant C has never, in dozens of visits over the years, ever, gotten anyone in my family sick. I named names for my locale, but its probably all shuffled up in different locales, maybe "C" has the idiot manager somewhere else so they get everyone sick, even though the "C" here has an absolutely perfect reputation. Maybe by some miracle, as you claim, your local health inspector is un-bribable or its just incredible luck of the draw or whatever.

I'm pretty much bulletproof, digestively speaking, if I cook it myself, partially because I'm not an idiot and partially because I care ... I don't like food poisoning and its remarkably easy to avoid, if you want. I visited Mexico and ate at reasonably upscale restaurants, enjoyed it immensely and didn't get sick, despite being told everyone gets sick in Mexico.

Somebody's "cold table" is as warm as 60 degrees or the "hot table" is only 110 and a couple hours later you will barf too. Or the other end explodes. Or both at the same time. Plus or minus some vermin infestation, improper sanitation rules being followed, etc. Despite all the strangely appealing and repetitive stories about fast food workers adding extra protein to the meal, the main problem is infinitely more likely to be the same unwashed knife and unwashed cutting board cut up raw chicken right before it sliced your tomatoes and raw onions. Or the raw egg scramble mix sat at room temperature before partial cooking for the entire breakfast shift midnight to 10 am. Or the salad vegetables were stored underneath the dripping raw chicken boxes in the cooler.

As for the protein additions you'd think this would be a major pr0n problem but I've not heard any discussion of it so I'm thinking as long as the perpetrator is not filthily disgusting its not going to make you sick... Come on, /., think about it, if merely touching a weiner resulted in instant guaranteed painful food poisoning I think teenage pregnancy rates would be a hell of a lot lower, either than or teen girls would be "sick with a tummy ache" a heck of a lot more often. Not to say swapping bodily fluids is safe, merely not insta-death, or (thankfully) not a common health problem.

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (1)

NetFusion (86828) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956019)

Your doing it wrong. Anyone eating feed lot corn cow burgers and burritos should expect 24 hours on the throne as the norm, not the outlier. There are a lot more issues with fast food then just the building and staff hygiene. The food itself is suspect and lacking in real nutrition.

Eating healthy means eating single source foods that are preferably made from local organically produced ingredients. When you look at a plate of food there should be little mystery about where the food on it came from and how it was made. So many people buy the lie that visual equivalence in food equals nutritional or sanitary equivalence, but they are not and the clearest evidence of this is the sad state of the heavily chemically fertilizer salted, herbicide, insecticide polluted soils they come from.

Real health begins with an active healthy soil food web in soils high in organic matter that is continually replenished, which is then used to raise healthy diverse plant life that can nutritiously feed you, the animals that you depend on for food, AND the larger food web of wildlife that keeps the pathogens and pests in check. In race to the bottom for the cheapest convenience food, you, the mono cropped and feed lot food you are eating, and the polluted soil it is created on are the losers. If you want true "Homeland Security", start by making healthy choices and seeking out responsibly made food.

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Re:Much rather see restaurant monitoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956561)

I worked fast food at an all-white establishment. All natural-born citizens.

One day, this asshole was being an asshole. Where I worked, we had a bunch of stalls and speakers you would drive your car up to. Place was named after a video game character. Anyway, this guy was being an asshole. So the guy working Number 1 (bun prep) took his burger to the bathroom and put his dick in it and rubbed a little bit on it. Then served it.

This is how you get food poisoning. Also, don't be a prick when you order fast food. Especially when you're not in the same building it's being prepared in.

War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955589)

Stallman hates facebook and this shows he may be right. Just the headline "Homeland Security mining Social Media" is pretty Big-Brother--ish.

Good but why so expensive? (2)

danbuter (2019760) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955591)

I'm glad they are monitoring for this stuff. At least it will help people. But _why_ does it cost $15 million per year?

Re:Good but why so expensive? (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955663)

Not sure what the problem is. Put more explanation into it.

I checked opensecrets and the accenture PAC only paid bribes of about 2/3 mil last year.

http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00300707 [opensecrets.org]

The normal RICO style bribe is somewhat less than 1/10th. So yeah the contract "shoudda" only been about 6 mil. There's a lot of wiggle room, I'm sure this isn't their only contract, and I'm sure that PAC isn't their only bribe paying system. But its not too many orders of magnitude outta line for what tax money they're getting vs what they paid to get it. They don't seem to be getting too much or too little contract for the "donations" they provided, compared to everyone else at the feeding trough.

Re:Good but why so expensive? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955717)

Because someone's crony needs a new job... and of course the staff that acts like they know what they are doing. It rather reminds me of where I work now. For some reason, IT department is stressed with too much work and not enough people. (We have one person out as we're seriously feeling the pain... that's a shrinking company of about 300 and 5 IT infrastructure and support people. Meanwhile, HR department has a small army of people... 17 at last count.)

You're right to point out that it's a waste of money. But the cause is something else.

Re:Good but why so expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956311)

Because in the US, the military (yes, military!) has those kinds of budgets, and apparently is more important than health, education and life security (like pensions) combined. Because FREE MARKET!!1one And because INDUSTRY and MONEY!! All of which apparently standing high above everything, including human life, basic rights and generally improving the country.

Re:Good but why so expensive? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#41958841)

$15 million a year? That amounts to a department with something like 100 techies and 15 managers plus some equipment and facilities. Which in the realm of federal spending, qualifies as chump change.

The best way to figure out large spending numbers like that, I've found, is to figure that 1 white-collar employee costs about $100K (salary, benefits, HR, office space, etc). So if you make the conversion from dollars to employees, you can get a much better sense of how big an effort really is.

Re:Good but why so expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41958941)

1,750,000 a month?

That's twelve people, buddy, and cheap as hell at that rate.

Grow up.

finally a practical application... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955603)

early zombie attack warning!

I felt a great disturbance in The Facebook... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955613)

As if millions of voices suddenly cried out against state control of the internet and its data, and were suddenly silenced.

Not another story about Notional Security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955621)

N/T

Well it's Accenture (3, Insightful)

hughbar (579555) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955655)

That used to be Arthur Andersen. I first 'met' them in about 1975 when they were messing up something in Woolworths UK. Since then they've been involved in messing up a great many things in gov.uk and some of our bigger companies. I'm not sure what their record is like elsewhere. Also, remember they 'audited' Enron, hence the name change. So, I don't expect that much from this, either way. $3 million they'll be through that in a couple of days, too...

Re:Well it's Accenture (1)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#41980463)

That used to be Arthur Andersen. I first 'met' them in about 1975 when they were messing up something in Woolworths UK. Since then they've been involved in messing up a great many things in gov.uk and some of our bigger companies. I'm not sure what their record is like elsewhere. Also, remember they 'audited' Enron, hence the name change. So, I don't expect that much from this, either way. $3 million they'll be through that in a couple of days, too...

The AA/Accenture split happened before that, or at least before it blew up into public knowledge. IIRC, the business services part decided that they wanted to go off on their own and so did an MBO and became Arthur Andersen Consulting (before changing their name to Accenture a few years later). Meanwhile AA decided that they wanted to get back into the business services line. Everything was going fine (if somewhat confusing) and then it was discovered that AA had been rather less diligent than they should have been with Enron, and promptly died. I guess that Accenture at that point felt huge relief that they'd changed their name a few years earlier, as it let them keep the amount of blowback heading their way down.

Headline FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955675)

Pandemic != "Bio Attack"

Re:Headline FUD (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956187)

Agreed ; "pandemic" definitely does not equal "bio(-logical warfare) attack".

This approach has some past justification (Accenture being fuckwits and the DHS being scumbags notwithstanding). A year or two ago, some epidemiology people discovered that they could predict the progress of IIRC annual influenza epidemic by tracking the use of search terms such as "sniffles", "aches and pains", "headache" etc. IIRC, they used Google's zeitgeist to access the data.

How effective it is to extend this sort of approach to other media, and other sets of symptoms, is an open question. But it passes my "is this an approach worth evaluating or trialling" threshold.

Re:Headline FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41964477)

Certain biological agents, such as smallpox or pulminary anthrax, initially present with flu-like symptoms, so it make sense to use the same approach. The problem with biological warfare is that you can't effectively detect to prevent. At best you can detect to curb the outbreak. At worst you're only detecting to treat.
 
By tracking flu-like symptoms, you have a better chance of finding these agents before they spread too far.

Mischief (1)

Smivs (1197859) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955721)

Smivs goes off to his Farcebook page to post "Won't be coming out to play tonight - gone down with Bubonic Plague".

I hope I did not post ... (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955731)

... about my recent big farts on facebook!
Or one of my friends, oh my, I guess I'm doomed!

Re:I hope I did not post ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956049)

it's the little farts that you constantly emit and don't know about that are the problem.

How would this be a bad thing? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955733)

If there was some sort of pandemic that reduced population below the current unsustainable levels, how could that be considered a bad thing? It is believed that the Black Death in Europe was a net gain. It produced all sorts of positive outcomes due to the population reduction. The 1% had to share more of their wealth with the 99% as there were simply too few workers for the land. Unsustainable agricultural practices were abandoned (marginal land was no longer cultivated and ecological disaster was averted). Faith in religion was shattered. Imagine if America's carbon footprint was cut by two-thirds due to the decline in polluting gasoline engines. It would be a win for the entire world.

Re:How would this be a bad thing? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956135)

There certainly was major cultural change consequent on the Black Death, including a substantial rise in the value of labour - which effectively ended the existence of slavery / serfdom within Britain (if not Europe overall) ; debt bondage still existed, but that's a substantially different thing to slavery. Freedom of travel became much more important de facto, as former serfs could move to work as paid labourers. A lot of changes in agriculture too, though I don't think you could sustain a claim that it averted ecological catastrophe - the Enclosures of a couple of centuries later were probably much more important.

Faith in religion though ... continued pretty much un-changed. At the time, the Church suffered a considerable loss in authority, which probably helped foster the schism of the Reformation a couple of generations later. But that was just substituting one pile of religious shit for another pile of shit. The smell didn't improve for centuries. It's only just starting to improve in the last couple of generations.

Next Project (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955737)

After the smashing success of the ORCA project for the Romney election, I'm sure Accenture will be equally successful with this new project.

Meanwhile, in the real world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955755)

This will translate to spending unholy amounts of money in order to provide a defense that probably won't work against a threat that doesn't exist.
Just like everything else the DHS is involved with.

Clear indication (1)

xenobyte (446878) | about a year and a half ago | (#41955785)

When people start dropping like flies, chances are that something like a pandemic is at work...

This seems like a waste of money - If people are really sick, chances are they won't be posting about it. And if they aren't really sick, it isn't worth writing home about and any pandemic of it is likely to be utter uninteresting and trivial.

Best excuse ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955891)

DHS Manager: Why are you looking at pictures of mostly naked girls on Facebook?? Get back to work!!

DHS Employee: Sir, these women are 82% more likely than average women to spread diseases among the population, this IS our job!

Damn gov't boondoggles! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955925)

Wasting money on pointless research when anybody with two eyes can see sick people in the streets.

Let me call Tom Coburn (successor to William Proxmire) and get him right on this!

Doesn't he have another Gold-plated Fleece to disburse?

(End Sarcasm!)

Preemptive compliance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41955991)

And I was wondering why people were posting about it every time they took a dump.

Accenture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956243)

I only wanted to mention that in Finland, Accenture is known as "Accidenture". They are mostly known for screwing [up] national transportation monopoly billing/ticketing system upgrade. They also are the company who Nokia outsourced firings to.

Combining all the security theather that blog articles and comments blame on Homeland Security with the "known" IT theather of Accidenture they are sure going to have a blast with all your taxpayer money (and most likely even more).

This is the first result obtained (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41956255)

You now have the asian flu.

It's trivial! (1)

aglider (2435074) | about a year and a half ago | (#41956307)

You can easily find publicly in the wild these messages:

A: Yeah, I'm trying to get those anthrax spores reproducing, as just a kilo is not enough for our nasty projects ....
B: Naa, you waste your time. I still have those Ebola viruses in my locker. A few grams and you are done. And cheaper.
A: Well, all right! What about meeting down at Time Square, close to the second oak tree?
B: It's OK. Don't forget to wear your nice white kaftan. I'll wear mine. And bring the money!
A: See you!
B: Inshalla!

This is good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41957809)

In the constantly evolving petri dish of today's threat landscape we can never underestimate the importance of proactive intelligence gathering. I support this.

Medical Claims would be a better indicator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41959151)

Wouldn't it be easier to used medical claims data to do this sort of thing? The claims are coded with diagnosis codes that describe the exact affliction along with patient data which would give you location.

A Dutch Oven is a popular biological attack... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41959157)

Marries biological attack with the other popular internet past time...

Feeds? Processing? (1)

harmonica (29841) | about a year and a half ago | (#41959655)

How do you continuously fetch and process all (public?) messages from Facebook, Twitter and others in near-realtime? Does the US government get special access? Is there a basis in law for this?

Once you get the data, do you just feed it into some data mining system?

Any idea about the storage and CPU requirements for such a system?

Obviously, processing such feeds is interesting for businesses and academia as well. Do you know any such projects?

Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41960285)

... trends in public health ...

This will reveal twitter-posters are fat, horny good-for-nothings spreading every disease known.

Google? (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year and a half ago | (#41962197)

Why don't they save 3 million and just ask Google?
Didn't Google used to post a flu map?

Re:Google? (1)

messymerry (2172422) | about a year and a half ago | (#41975795)

They plan to stomp on Google at some point. This is a war of three armies: Big government Big business Big media Each has it's own plans for the herd,,, Moooooo 'scuse me while I chew my cud

Riiight. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41962887)

In more specific terms, a handful of people just managed to get us to pay for their facebook addiction, instead of chewed-out and/or fired.

Cover story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41970715)

The Homeland Security Department has commissioned Accenture to test technology that mines open social networks

Homeland Security employees spend most of their time on Facebook. This is their cover story.

Fear Mongering (1)

Gallomimia (1415613) | about a year and a half ago | (#41972249)

I must suggest that the only powers capable of bio terrorism are either parties to which weapons have been leaked (on purpose?) or parties who control HLS, so this by default must be nothing more than endless fear mongering seen during the nuclear age of the cold war, and the terrorist age of the early 21st century. Huddle in the corner and eat the grass nearest the fence, all you scared little cattle. Make sure you believe that uncle Sam is the only one who can protect you. Lead you into the slaughter house like good well behaved livestock.

We are a herd.
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