Spooks to haunt chat rooms
November 29th, 2004

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has obtained documents showing that the National Science Foundation and the Central Intelligence Agency collaborated on research grants to develop “ways to monitor on-line chat rooms for terrorist activities.”

As Declan McCullagh reports for C|Net
, one grant was awarded to two researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Their proposal, also disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, received $157,673 from the CIA and NSF. It says: “We propose a system to be deployed in the background of any chat room as a silent listener for eavesdropping…The proposed system could aid the intelligence community to discover hidden communities and communication patterns in chat rooms without human intervention.”

Yener and Krishnamoorthy, both associate professors of computer science, wrote that their research would involve writing a program for “silently listening” to an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel and “logging all the messages.” One of the oldest and most popular methods for chatting online, IRC attracts hundreds of thousands of users every day. A history written by IRC creator Jarkko Oikarinen said the concept grew out of chat technology for modem-based bulletin boards in the 1980s.

The Yener and Krishnamoorthy proposal says their research will begin Jan. 1, 2005 but does not say which IRC servers will be monitored.

Thanks to Xeni at BoingBoing!


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