New submitter Slash_Account_Dot shares a report from 404 Media, a new independent media company founded by technology journalists Jason Koebler, Emanuel Maiberg, Samantha Cole, and Joseph Cox: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security, has bought millions of dollars worth of software from a company that uses artificial intelligence to detect “sentiment and emotion” in online posts, according to a cache of documents obtained by 404 Media. CBP told 404 Media it is using technology to analyze open source information related to inbound and outbound travelers who the agency believes may threaten public safety, national security, or lawful trade and travel. In this case, the specific company called Fivecast also offers “AI-enabled” object recognition in images and video, and detection of “risk terms and phrases” across multiple languages, according to one of the documents.
Marketing materials promote the software’s ability to provide targeted data collection from big social platforms like Facebook and Reddit, but also specifically names smaller communities like 4chan, 8kun, and Gab. To demonstrate its functionality, Fivecast promotional materials explain how the software was able to track social media posts and related Persons-of-Interest starting with just “basic bio details” from a New York Times Magazine article about members of the far-right paramilitary Boogaloo movement. 404 Media also obtained leaked audio of a Fivecast employee explaining how the tool could be used against trafficking networks or propaganda operations. The news signals CBP’s continued use of artificial intelligence in its monitoring of travelers and targets, which can include U.S. citizens. This latest news shows that CBP has deployed multiple AI-powered systems, and provides insight into what exactly these tools claim to be capable of while raising questions about their accuracy and utility.
“CBP should not be secretly buying and deploying tools that rely on junk science to scrutinize people’s social media posts, claim to analyze their emotions, and identify purported ‘risks,'” said Patrick Toomey, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The public knows far too little about CBP’s Counter Network Division, but what we do know paints a disturbing picture of an agency with few rules and access to an ocean of sensitive personal data about Americans. The potential for abuse is immense.”
Regarding astral projection, Woody Allen once wrote, “This is not a bad way
to travel, although there is usually a half-hour wait for luggage.”