The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has released revised guidelines for how and when it can collect, analyze and store information on American citizens. The new guidelines were published on the agency's website just days before Donald Trump took office. They come after years of criticism from some politicians and the public over the federal government's surveillance powers. CIA attorneys insist the new guidelines protect the "privacy and civil rights of the American people."
While the CIA tries to ease fears about its data gathering, cyber experts say the agency is always expanding its capabilities. "The CIA in 1999 set up an investment arm call inQtel, that makes investments in technologies that the spy agencies would like to see grow," says Noah Shachtman of Wired Magazine, in an internet interview. "Their latest investment is in this company called Visible, which basically takes blog posts, Twitter updates and comments on YouTube videos, and decides whether certain posts are hostile."
Shachtman says it's all part of the CIA's efforts to keep tabs on the growing world of social media and weed out suspicious people online. "It's basically a way for them to sort of keep track of what's going on in Twitter, on the blogs, etcetera, etcetera," he explains. "It kind of sorts them out and decides which people have the most weight in the blogosphere, and which people are the most influential."
Nevertheless, the new CIA guidelines could be short-lived, since they were issued just days before Donald Trump was sworn in as President. Trump has called for stronger government surveillance powers and for an overhaul of U.S. intelligence, which could mean more changes to CIA policy coming soon.