In-Q-Tel of Arlington, Virginia, United States is a not-for-profit venture capital firm that invests in high-tech companies for the sole purpose of keeping the Central Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies, equipped with the latest in information technology in support of United States intelligence capability. Wikipedia.
Communications of the ACM | Year: 2013
What is critical? To what degree is critical defined as a matter of principle, and to what degree is it defined operationally? I am distinguishing what we say from what we do. Source
News Article | May 29, 2015
True, like the stalwarts of Sand Hill Road, they invest in tech companies. But unlike other VCs, they maintain direct ties to the CIA, NSA, and a host of other American intelligence agencies. In-Q-Tel was formed specifically to funnel technology from Silicon Valley to American intelligence agencies. The venture capital fund, which is public about its CIA ties, invests in companies that are able to create products specifically for the spy and government world. Tasked with "bridg(ing) the gap between the technology needs of the U.S. Intelligence Community and emerging commercial innovation," they pour money into outside companies to develop specialized products for intelligence agencies. One of their latest investments? A mobile collaboration tool for police officers, fire departments, and EMTs called BlueLine Grid. BlueLine Grid (which Fast Company’s Peter Wade covered back in 2013) is designed as a collaborative platform for government employees in different agencies to work together. Jack Weiss, the company’s president and cofounder, describes it as a team communication tool that allows information to be shared easily. Individual agencies, such as police departments, pay a monthly subscription fee to use the platform, and users then access the platform through smartphone apps or a web-based dashboard. One of the product's selling points is a social graph of America's public sector workforce developed by BlueLine. With the click of a button, the company hopes, police officers or EMTs can immediately connect with the contact they are trying to seek across jurisdictions. Users can then identify their geographic locations on maps, collaborate with teams in real time (almost like a Slack for cops), and communicate with other agents in the geographic vicinity. Supervisors can also send push notifications and broadcasts to entire teams over the app, which is offered to police departments as a feature that saves time and money. According to Weiss, more than 20% of American law enforcement departments currently use the platform. Much of this is due to the pedigree of the site’s founders. BlueLine Grid the company was formerly known as Bratton Technologies, and was cofounded by Weiss, entrepreneur David Riker, and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton. Bratton, who is no longer involved in the company, founded the firm while working for white-collar crime investigation firm Kroll with Riker and Weiss. Weiss, a former federal prosecutor-turned-Los Angeles city councilman, said the company’s early efforts centered around building their social graph, a process that included scraping over 11 million names of government employees to build sales leads and verify identities. In public appearances (such as the video above), BlueLine Grid emphasizes the verification aspect of their product. Within a closed, secure app, BlueLine says, users can share information on local goings-on between agencies on the go. Weiss said that police departments are largely "products of the radio," and that many law enforcement agencies and fire departments are less tech savvy than the general public might expect. One example he gave is the use of paper maps on a routine basis by the Los Angeles Fire Department, with firefighters using GPS apps such as Google Maps or Waze on their phones just like a normal commuter. BlueLine isn't the first company to operate in this space. Web-based police portals such as PoliceOne have been around for years, and many big-city police departments have unofficial (and frequently profane, racist, sexist, and very NSFW) bulletin boards like Thee Rant in New York. But BlueLine are among the first to use a monthly subscription fee-based model, and to aim their product directly at the many, many law enforcement personnel in America who use smartphones or iPads on the job. They are also working in an industry that’s in the middle of an ongoing migration to cloud computing. In-Q-Tel has shown a keen interest in cloud computing, building partnerships with Amazon Web Services, among others. Meanwhile, police departments are chomping at the bit to adopt cloud computing thanks to the cost savings they offer to their overstretched budgets. The widespread adoption of body cameras by many police departments, and the constant stream of footage they will generate, is also expected to accelerate this trend. In the meantime, BlueGrid is hoping the other 80% of American law enforcement agencies will become subscribers.
News Article | October 18, 2015
Facebook just launched a new kind of notification that will warn users if it suspects their account has been targeted by an attacker working on behalf of a nation-state. "While we have always taken steps to secure accounts that we believe to have been compromised, we decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored," Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, writes in the company's blog post about the news. "We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts." Facebook says that if a user sees this notification, it's not an indication that Facebook itself has been hacked in any way. Rather, it could indicate that that person's computer or smartphone has malware on it that bad actors are using to seek access to their accounts. Here's what the notification will look like on desktop: Facebook says it can't explain how it attributes attacks to nation-states versus smaller-scale hackers, because it has to "protect the integrity" of its methods and processes, but promises that it will only use that warning notification "where the evidence strongly supports our conclusion." In other words, if you get that Facebook notification, you should take it seriously. The company recommends rebuilding or replacing any system that may have been infected by malware, as well as turning on login approvals. The chilling reality of the potential destruction of state-sponsored cyber-attacks rocketed into the public eye late last year when North Korea attacked Sony Entertainment, shutting down the company's computer systems and revealing troves of personal information from employees. Talking about the hack at the recent Vanity Fair conference, assistant attorney general for national security in the Department of Justice John Carlin said that attacks by nation-states can be brutal, because if they want to get in, they'll get it. "There’s no wall high enough to keep a determined nation state out of your computer systems," he said. But, he said, noticing an attack early and moving fast is crucial. That's Facebook's attitude when releasing this new notification, too. "We hope that these warnings will assist those people in need of protection," Stamos writes, "And we will continue to improve our ability to prevent and detect attacks of all kinds against people on Facebook."
The Silicon Valley company, whose predictive analytics technology was reportedly used by the US military to track down Osama bin Laden, disclosed the latest funding in a filing this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Palantir's valuation has been estimated by analysts at $20 billion, making it the biggest venture-backed firm in the US after Uber and Airbnb. It was not immediately clear if the valuation changed with the latest funding. While Palantir keeps largely away from the public spotlight, media reports say its data analytics technology is used for military, intelligence and law enforcement. It also works in areas such as disaster relief, fraud detection, tracking supply chains and dealing with economic upheaval. Its early funders include In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA. Explore further: With $15 billion valuation, Palantir looks to raise more money
News Article | September 6, 2016
A Spanish startup is promising to revolutionize readers’ access to often unreported news. The unreported news in question, however, is not overlooked disasters or under-reported tragedies in far-flung countries, but minor league sporting events. David Llorente, co-founder of Narrativa, said was inspired to develop an AI-powered content generation system after he tried fruitlessly to find coverage of minor league soccer games from other countries in his native Spanish. “There are people interested in these things, in these leagues, in these kind of sports,” he told Motherboard. “The idea was to focus on regional sports. I wanted to write about football, but about Japanese football in Spanish, to cover this niche.” Narrativa is part of the booming automatic content generation industry which uses algorithms to convert data sets into narratives. US company Narrative Science has received investment from In-Q-Tel, the US intelligence investment fund. E-commerce companies, including one in Germany called Idealo, are also investing in automatic content generation in an effort to find a quicker, cheaper and more efficient alternative to copywriters. In media, the Associated Press and Reuters are among those automating stock market coverage, while the Washington Post recently used automation to create briefs that were fed into its Olympics live blog. When it comes to media, Narrativa, like other content generation services, is limited to data-heavy subjects, meaning sports, finance and economics. Other competitors in the field include Automated Insights, whose Wordsmith software powers the AP’s automatic content generation, while Thomson Reuters reportedly uses in-house software. Narrativa’s founders met as colleagues in the computer science department of Spain’s Alcalá University and are firm adherents to using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence—in contrast to a programmatic approach—to generate texts. “Imagine if you want to add new information about the game, you say I’m going to talk about the weather, how the weather influences the result. In our approach we will just add new data and new examples and the system will learn,” he said. “If you have a programmatic approach you have to define the rules, to code every single line and say here we talk about if the weather was bad or good” Journalists are key to the process, Llorente added, noting that the company counts three reporters among its staff. “Our approach helps us to have a lot more continuity and the narratives are potentially much better because they are not repetitive.” Yet while Narrativa uses journalistic expertise to improve its products, not everyone in the media has been welcoming to their pitch, Llorente said, claiming that there is some inertia among the big media companies in Spain in particular in exploring the possibilities of AI-produced content. Those adopting automatic content generation are quick to defend against accusations that they are cutting jobs. The AP and the Washington Post have emphasized “robot journalism” as a complementary tool for journalists, rather than something that will be replacing reporters in newsrooms. Using automated systems, media organizations can produce more content and potentially free up journalists to focus on less repetitive work. In January 2015, the AP announced that it was automatically generating more than 3,000 earnings reports each quarter, noting this represents a “tenfold increase” over what AP reporters and editors created previously. Llorente is confident that despite some lingering skepticism in the media industry, automatic generation will be everywhere within a few years. “This is going to come. It’s going to be standard in five or 10 years,” Llorente says. “And hopefully the jobs of journalists will be more interesting. Especially for some of them who are basically doing work they don’t want to.” Want more Motherboard in your life? Then sign up for our daily newsletter.