Get ready for the shock of your lives, Geek.com readers: the FBI is looking for developers who can deliver a powerful social media monitoring application so they can keep tabs on what’s happening on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. That the FBI wants to monitor publicly available information isn’t a surprise, of course. What’s surprising is that they hadn’t already done this ages ago.
It’s not as though social media is a brand new platform any more, and we’ve seen plenty of evidence before that sites like Twitter provide incredibly useful insight into regional sentiment. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the FBI was quietly seeing if existing social search and monitoring tools could provide the functionality they need — apps like Hootsuite, Seesmic, Brizzly, Tweetdeck, and Radian6.
If they were testing tools, they’ve now discovered that no single app provided all the functionality that the Bureau required. Now the FBI is seeking coders who can put together a comprehensive, multi-tabbed media monitoring monster.
As you’d expect from any government institution, the FBI has offered up a lengthy list of particulars that need to be delivered. Most of the functions are pretty standard fare for this kind of app: monitoring specific keywords and users, an integrated alert system (think push notifications), searching posts by their geographical location, integration with mapping services. They’re also looking for integration with the FBI’s own internal notification system so that intelligence gleaned by the app can be effortlessly pushed to the agents and offices that need it.
The FBI also wants to be able to archive data within the app, but the Request for Information seems to limit what’s stored to alerts and app-generated reports. Archiving all the monitored data in its raw form would require huge amounts of storage space, but this is the FBI we’re talking about. It’s not like they’d have a hard time coming up with enough cash to buy a few exabytes to facilitate their shiny new monitoring app.