I use a Google aggregator to show me, at a glance, a screen full of the top international, national, local and interest-specific headlines of the moment. Google has been in some of those headlines lately…

Like when they reached agreement with China allowing them to provide their Chinese search capabilities, after all.

Shares of Google rose 2.4 percent as the news erased some concerns that China would eject the company for taking a hard line against Internet censorship…

Google embarrassed China in January by drawing global attention to Beijing’s Internet censorship practices, a function of the government’s belief that keeping a tight grip on information helps it maintain control.

The Internet company also accused Chinese hackers of orchestrating a sophisticated cyber attack on Google and other major U.S. companies.

Google then declared that it was no longer willing to offer censored search results. This exacerbated tensions between Washington and Beijing…

Washington has forcefully argued against Internet censorship and demanded that Beijing investigate and explain the alleged cyber attacks.

Over the months, tensions between the two countries have eased. But analysts said that while the United States would likely welcome the Google agreement, deeper divisions over freedom of information, Internet policy and cyber security would likely continue.

On that note….now the U.S. government and Google are partnering to “mine” the wealth of information publicly available, or “open source intelligence“…

…information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

This is pretty amazing stuff.

Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.

Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on Amazon.com servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.

“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”

So, a few questions. Any chance of doing some of this in China?

And to follow up on this….

Google Ventures did not return requests to comment for this article. In-Q-Tel Chief of Staff Lisbeth Poulos e-mailed a one-line statement: “We are pleased that Recorded Future is now part of IQT’s portfolio of innovative startup companies who support the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

….how might that mission be morphing as the government redefines threat assessment?

And how is the government’s duty to protect, in these times especially, restricting the peoples’ right to privacy?

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....