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USA: profitable espionage

4 February 2011, by — admin ()

RapLeaf, a US-based company, has been successfully working in the area of social network monitoring (SMM) for several years and has accumulated significant experience in collecting and analyzing these data. In other words, the core of this business is the collection of comprehensive information about Internet users and selling it to interested third parties.

At the moment, RapLeaf’s database contains information about a huge number of uses – over one billion.

The main purpose of this information is obvious: ads and improvement of advertising efficiency through more accurate targeting. Ironically, these services are especially popular among politicians and public figures.

The company even got involved in a minor political scandal at the end of the past year when Wall Street Journal reporters noticed a rapid growth of the amount of finely targeted ads served to specific users. An investigation conducted by WSJ revealed that Jim Bender, a republican candidate, used RapLeaf’s services during his election campaign.

From a legal standpoint, RapLeaf has no right to store users’ names in its databases, but it’s not particularly important at the moment: the law does not prohibit storing the identifiers of users’ social network accounts that can be used to obtain actual users’ names.

Apparently, this data is not mined from social networks only. When a user registers on one of RepLeaf’s affiliate sites, it sets a user cookie that enables its owners to quickly and reliably collect information about this user.

Note that such monitoring activities can and are used for “positive” and “peaceful” purposes as well. For instance, there is a project that uses similar methods and aims at creating a system capable of recognizing the behavioral patterns of people with signs of depression who can potentially commit a suicide or hurt others.


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