Building a “Data Eye in the Sky”

Nearly a year ago, tech writer John Markoff published a story in The New York Times about Open Source Indicators (OSI), a new program by the Federal government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) seeking to automatically collect publicly available data, including Web search queries, blog entries, Internet traffic flows, financial market indicators, traffic webcams, changes in Wikipedia entries, etc., to understand patterns of human communication, consumption, and movement. According to Markoff:

It is intended to be an entirely automated system, a “data eye in the sky” without human intervention, according to the program proposal. The research would not be limited to political and economic events, but would also explore the ability to predict pandemics and other types of widespread contagion, something that has been pursued independently by civilian researchers and by companies like Google.