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Image credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

CIA claims it can predict some social unrest up to 5 days ahead

Thanks to the power of algorithms, machine learning, and open source data sets.
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Reuters/Jason Reed

Back in March 2015, the CIA chief began setting up a new office, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, to integrate the latest tech into the agency's data-gathering workflow along with boosting the country's cyber defense. According to its director, the department has helped the CIA as a whole improve its "anticipatory intelligence." Speaking at the Next Tech event yesterday, Deputy Director for Digital Innovation Andrew Hallman noted that, in some instances, they've been able to forecast social unrest and societal instability in other countries by as much as three to five days out.

That "anticipatory intelligence" has been boosted through a combination of algorithms and analytics to predict the flow of illicit goods or extremists, according to Defense One. Deep and machine learning makes sense of seemingly disparate data, helping analysts see patterns to anticipate national security threats. And then they apply it to the world.

"What we're trying to do within a unit of my directorate is leverage what we know from social sciences on the development of instability, coups and financial instability, and take what we know from the past six or seven decades and leverage what is becoming the instrumentation of the globe," Hallman said during yesterday's event.

They don't just pore through the intelligence community's own proprietary information, either. The Digital Innovation department has been using more and more open source data sets with specialists who can combine public and agency information to draw more nuanced conclusions, which CIA director John Brennan called a tremendous advantage.

Combined with their increasing surveillance of social media, the agency is clearly looking to gobble up as much information as possible. With tech's best data-parsing tools, they hope to get days of lead time to prepare for riots and social decay across the globe. But how successful they are and how far ahead they can accurately anticipate it is uncertain.

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