The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has spent nearly $1.3 million over the last four years to access and interpret data accumulated from Australian social media users, The Daily Telegraph reports.

It has been revealed the ADF penned contracts with three big data analytics firms, which scoop up the personal information and location data offered by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter users.

Access to those massive data troves is usually resold to organisations with interests in journalism, politics, and even epidemiology. Basically, folks who have a keen interest in monitoring large swathes of people on a molecular level, and trying to understand how they operate.

A spokesperson for the ADF told The Daily Telegraph the data can be utilised in situations like natural disasters, when a massive of influx posts can be interpreted in real-time to assist in rescue operations.

But that hasn’t stopped speculation the ADF could theoretically use the same in-depth analytics to effectively track and monitor individuals and their behaviour based on their social media usage.

Those concerns haven’t been quashed by the ADF’s $100,000 contract with Geofeedia, an analytics firm which lost its access to certain Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram data sets in 2016 after the American Civil Liberties Union found US police used the service to actively track protestors.

The Joint Services Division wing of the ADF, aka the crew which handles their surveillance capabilities, was also responsible for hurling more than $350,000 at Twitter-mining service Gnip.

A further $840,00 was doled out to Datasift, which bills itself as “a Big Data company whose raison d’être is to empower organizations to harness the power of Human Data in real-time.”

The ADF spokesperson told the outlet they simply appreciate having the ability to bolster information gained from more traditional sources, but given Facebook’s recent loosey-goosey handling of user data, you can expect digital privacy advocates to have something to say about all this.

Source: The Daily Telegraph
Image: Gary Ramage / AAP Images