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10/21/2009
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CIA Invests In Social Media Monitoring Technology

Investment arm In-Q-Tel is funding Visible Technologies, making its online brand analysis capabilities available to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Businesses are increasingly looking to social media to monitor and manage their brands online. U.S. intelligence agencies now have similar capabilities as part of their technology portfolios.

In-Q-Tel, the investment firm established by the CIA to support U.S. intelligence agencies, has invested in Visible Technologies, a start-up that monitors social media content on the Web.

Visible Technologies' software-as-a-service apps are used by companies to monitor and manage their brands by observing and analyzing public opinion on the Web in real-time. Microsoft, Hormel Foods, Xerox, Panasonic, and marketing and public relations firms are among its customers.

U.S. intelligence organizations could use Visible Technologies' service to monitor and analyze public opinion on the Web, much as private sector companies do.

Visible Technologies' TruCAST engine "casts a net on whatever the client wants to know more about," said senior VP Blake Cahill. TruCAST pulls information from blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, news sites, and Web forums, though it can't reach into places like Facebook and MySpace where users have set privacy controls. Using that information, companies can run sentiment and relevancy analysis, look at a commenter or blogger's level of influence, and search for posts based on defined criteria.

Visible Technologies has been focusing increasingly on the government sector, and it has done some work through the General Services Administration, according to Cahill. Concepts & Strategies, a consultancy that advises the Department of Defense, is one of its partners.

In-Q-Tel has invested in more than 175 companies, including ArcSight (security information management), Lucid Imagination (open source search), Endeca (search), Adapx (smart pens) and Keyhole, the developer of foundational technology used in Google Maps.

Visible Technologies has raised $23.5 million in funding since its inception in 2005, including $8 million since December. Terms of In-Q-Tel's investment weren't disclosed.



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