The NSA might be close to giving up on their massive cell phone metadata collection program because it’s yielded too much nonsensical information from random Americans that it’s beyond being useful for anything except movie spoilers and the occasional outburst of teenager angst (One Direction is splitting up, America! And Justin Bieber maybe going on televised trial in Florida!), but that doesn’t mean that the Obama Administration has given up monitoring pointless social media conversations for good.
Today, it was revealed that the Health and Human Services department is on the lookout for a new social media search tool that will allow them to monitor all social media conversations in real time (along with complete social media archives), looking for people complaining of disease symptoms so that they can better track outbreaks through online whining.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking a “social media analytic tool” that will give the government access to “full Twitter historical data,” according to a solicitation released on Tuesday.
The agency is seeking feedback for a “possible future acquisition to provide near real time social media analysis.” HHS said it wants to use the tool for “ongoing monitoring” of public health issues.
HHS provides a long list of requirements, including “access to real-time social media posts,” and “access to full Twitter firehose.”
The agency requires an archive that goes back at least five years of “full Twitter historical data.” The government will also need “access to multiple account log-ins,” “real-time alerting,” the “ability to construct lengthy Boolean searches,” and a function that can filter search results based on the location of a Twitter user.
Under a category of additional things that HHS might find useful? A way of exporting the complete Twitter database to a separate spreadsheet, presumably so that they can keep it under lock and key where it will never be used for a nefarious purpose. There is, of course, no specifics as to what “disease” requires such careful social media monitoring (aside from various cultural derangement, of course), but they stress that they can use the data in cooperation with the Office of Emergency Management to figure out how to deploy resources in the wake of an emergency. Because, of course, no one on social media would ever knowingly exaggerate their issues.
Obviously, what HHS will find is that most people will require the OMB to respond to Starbucks coffee outages, routine public transit maintenance and understaffed cable television providers. But they’ll have to finance and build this massive machine to realize that, of course.