In a move that's unlikely to sit well with privacy advocates, the FBI has begun scouting for a tool that will allow it to gather and mine data from social networks like Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

The goal is to use the tool to keep on top of breaking events, incidents and emerging threats, the agency said in a recent Request for Information (RFI) from IT vendors.

The FBI said it's seeking a "secure, lightweight web application portal using mashup technology."

According to the RFI document, "The application must have the ability to rapidly assemble critical open source information and intelligence that will allow [the FBI's Strategic Information and Operations Center] to quickly vet, identity and geo-locate" potential threats to the U.S.

The FBI said the tool must have the ability to automatically search and scrape data off social networking and news sites based on specific queries. It must also be able to display alerts on geo-spatial maps and give users the ability to quickly summarize the "who, what, when, where and why" of specific threats and incidents.

The FBI hopes to use information posted on social networks to detect specific and credible threats, locate those organizating and taking part in dangerous gatherings and predict upcoming events, the FBI said.

Full story: Computerworld