“The Federal Bureau of Investigation has purchased 5,000 licenses for an analytics tool for gathering open-source intelligence from multiple social media platforms.
Virginia-based Panamerica Computers will provide the law enforcement agency with licenses for Babel X, according to details published on SAM.gov on March 11. Babel X is a text analytics platform that allows users to search multiple online media websites and search by location.”Source: John Hewitt Jones, “FBI purchases 5,000 licenses for Babel X social media OSINT tool,” FedScoop, April 5, 2022, https://www.fedscoop.com/babel-x-fbi-purchases-5000-licenses/
Go to SAM.gov (linked from the FedScoop article):
The key document is the Statement of Work, Amendment 2 (most updated):
Here are just some of the requirements, not all, that indicate the government could use this software to track you across multiple platforms with an automated search that continually refreshes. (Note that these searches are anonymous). The tracking can be done to predict future behavior as well.
“Keyword-Based Search: Keywords shall be a basic form used to collect data (e.g., usernames, email
addresses, hashtags, demographic information, mentions, etc.). This shall include advanced search.
Information shall be returned in formats that can be ordered chronologically or by other important
markers on the data. A Contractor may receive a strength for their ability to search for entities such
as emoticons and similar internet functions.
“….Manipulation of Returned Data: The users shall have the ability to mark returned items as
reviewed, priority, and other useful markings. The system shall also provide recommendations of
helpful and better ways to search and options for maximizing returns.
“Geo Capabilities: The tool shall include region/state, city, and custom geo-fencing bounding boxes.
User shall be able to pair keyword searches with geospatial capabilities to view all social media
postings for a specific area. This shall be possible by location information that the user has made
“Aggregated Data Source: The ability to look at multiple data sources at one time for analysis shall
be included. Users shall have access to a continuous data stream of all major and minor data sources,
mobile apps, messaging apps, etc.
“Link Analysis: Users shall have the ability to view connections between subject/posters, the
subject’s network, linked accounts, catalogs of friends, follower lists, and biographical details. This
shall be represented in useful, manipulatable charts and graphs.
“Persistent Search: System shall provide the ability to monitor feeds without having to actively run
multiple searches through many different platforms. In that way, alerts shall be generated and waiting
for a user when they log into the system. These persistent searches will be for periods up to 90 days
maximum but can be restarted at the end of that period at the request of the end user. The Government
defines persistent search as the ability to monitor feeds on an active and continuous basis, with no
end user action needed, for continued awareness of events and situations. The Government’s
definition of persistent search includes the ability to schedule searches to occur on an interval to be
determined by the end user, to include intervals as often as every 8 minutes.
“Sentiment Analysis: Tool shall provide sentiment analysis, including emotion analysis, using word
lists or natural language processing, to be able to determine likely attitudes of the targets.
“Predictive Analytics: Tool shall provide the ability to project the likely future trends based on the
current state of the data.
“Bot detection: The tool shall have the ability to identify false and automated accounts, such as bots.
“Network-Based Search: The followers, likes, and commenters on a social media platform shall be
used to collect data, wherever possible. When possible, those types of communications shall be
available just as the primary content is available.
“The tool shall provide access to as many data/internet/PAI [publicly available information] sources as possible, but must include those listed as mandatory in Section 2 of this SOW.
The FBI will evaluate sources on a regular basis and shall have the ability to request the Contractor
add or remove sources as threats and threat actors change.”
It should be noted that these capabilities can be crucially helpful for tracking criminals.
They can be turned against citizens fairly easily unless there are robust safeguards in place.
It is one thing to have open-source intelligence out there; it is another to aggregate and use it against the individual at will, leveraging the mighty power of the Federal government.
By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (Dossy). All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.