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    Posted June 23, 2014 by
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    Secret Service seeks social media monitoring expert


    The United States Secret Service has posted a new job opportunity online, and it is one that has been getting people talking, in large part due to one strange requirement. Not only does this top government office that's charged with keeping our Commander in Chief safe want experts in social media monitoring – firms like Research Optimus, for instance – to ferret out trends, but they also want technical experts to be able to distinguish sarcasm from realistic threats.


    It isn't the requests for the program to be compatible with Internet Explorer 8 that has tongues wagging, but the desire for the tool “to detect sarcasm and false positives” that is morphing the job into the realm of artificial intelligence.


    Indeed, the ability to detect sarcasm in Twitter status updates might be a tall order for any developer to fulfill, especially since sarcasm is often more readily pegged by a person’s tone of voice or inflection. Alas, the correct tool with no doubt thousands of lines of code in its algorithm could be able to discern an automatic way to decipher the hallmarks of sarcasm in social media updates. Those factors could include plentiful usage of exclamation points and capital letters, although subtler shades of sarcasm would be more difficult to detect.


    In essence, the five-year government contract seeks a company that's able to create a real-time social media software analytics tool that's able to monitor massive amounts of data in an automated fashion. The winning company would have to prove they are able to uncover patterns in the huge data sets of tweets, updates, etc., and then present their findings in a way that non-technical personnel can understand.


    With one of the edicts of the job being the ability to “provide user friendly functionality to multiple staff members,” it sounds like the government body is asking for a pretty graphic user interface – known as a GUI in the technology world – that would let them be able to click a button and perhaps have the social media monitoring tool spit out the latest terrorism threat’s likely locale, for example.


    It sounds like a good tool, one that will be greatly needed as the online world of big data increases exponentially. Besides, imagine how many Secret Service agents it would take to manually perform a task like this. The clarion call also sounds like the perfect opportunity for the right company with enough expertise – and cloud storage space, I'd imagine – to handle the job and come up with the right answers.


    “Award will be made to one vendor for all items,” writes the government. And though they mention they have a “firm fixed price,” they don't explicitly state the amount of money they'll be shelling out for such a program.


    However, on the heels of the Edward Snowden controversy with the NSA, it'll be interesting to note how privacy pundits react to this latest bit of “spying” news. At least in this case the words being spied upon have already been published in public.

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