Made-in-B.C. web tool offers rare glimpse into world's most remote, private areas
Published Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:41AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:48AM EDT
Inside North Korea, behind the fences of Guantanamo Bay, even aboard military vessels. There aren’t many places Karl Swannie can’t go.
With just a few clicks of his mouse, the CEO of intelligence and security company EchoSec is able to uncover a smorgasbord of photos and tweets from some of the world’s most remote – and even private – locations.
“I’m looking at one of our submarines,” Swannie told CTV British Columbia as he scrolled through a list of images, status updates and tweets made from a Canadian military sub. “This is unfiltered information coming from specific spots.”
EchoSec, based in Victoria, B.C., harvests location data from posts on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare and displays it on a map – making it easy to see exactly who is posting what, and where they are located.
"It's just like a new Google,” Swannie said. “It's a new way to search. Instead of searching for text, now you search an area."
The company’s prospective clients include government and law enforcement organizations, he said.
"I have had the most interesting conversations with some really interesting people around the world,” Swannie said. “Heads of counter-terrorism organizations, heads of gang enforcement organizations. It's been a really interesting couple of weeks."
Outside of possible defence applications, the information could even make it easier for employers to see what their employees are up to on sites like Twitter.
Though it may seem creepy, because the tool utilizes data people have shared publicly, albeit potentially unwittingly, it is completely legal.
"An entire industry is growing up based on using our information, information that we are putting out there," Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, told CTV British Columbia.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Ed Watson