Software that can map people’s lives by mining data from social media sites has already been developed by a US defence contractor, it has emerged.
The news comes amid growing concerns by businesses about new entrants to the global workforce posing increasing security challenges to their employers as they mix personal and private lives.
Raytheon developed the software that can track people’s movements and predict future behaviour as part of a joint industry research and development effort with the US military in 2010.
The paper obtained a video that reveals how the "extreme-scale analytics" system can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.
The video shows that the Rapid Information Overlay Technology, or Riot, can pull out location data from photographs that is automatically embedded by some smartphones.
The video also demonstrates Riot’s capability to identify what places an individual visits regularly, the times at which they visit those places, what the individual looks like and who they communicate with online.
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Raytheon claims it has not sold the software to any clients, but it was shared between the members of the joint research and development project.
Civil liberties groups have raised concerns that the technology could be used by governments as a means of monitoring people online.
Raytheon did not want its Riot demonstration video to be revealed on the grounds that it says it shows a "proof of concept" system design it is working on to help meet US security needs.
A spokesman told the Guardian: "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."
Communications Data Bill needs more work
News of the Riot system comes just days after a UK cross-party intelligence and security committee found that the government’s proposed Communications Data Bill needs more work.
The so-called "snooping bill" is aimed at making it easier for security and police services to spy on emails, phone calls and internet activity and has been widely criticised as an assault on civil liberties.
Campaigners believe the proposed changes could lead to blanket surveillance of the entire UK population. The proposals have also drawn criticism from members of the technology industry.
The committee, which has been charged with scrutinising the bill before it is enacted, has raised concerns about “insufficient consultation” with service providers about practical implementation.
The committee also raised concerns about a lack of “coherent communication” about the way in which communications data is used and the safeguards that will be in place.