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Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to develop an early-warning system based on material “scraped” from social networks.

FBI says the application should provide information about possible domestic and global threats superimposed onto maps “using mash-up technology”.

FBI has asked contractors to suggest possible solutions including the estimated cost.

Privacy campaigners say they are concerned that the move could have implications for free speech.

The FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SOIC) posted its “Social Media Application” market research request onto the web on 19 January, and it was subsequently flagged up by New Scientist magazine.

The document says: “Social media has become a primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events and the primal alert to possible developing situations.”

The FBI says the application should collect “open source” information and have the ability to:

• Provide an automated search and scrape capability of social networks including Facebook and Twitter.

• Allow users to create new keyword searches.

• Display different levels of threats as alerts on maps, possibly using colour coding to distinguish priority. Google Maps 3D and Yahoo Maps are listed among the “preferred” mapping options.

• Plot a wide range of domestic and global terror data.

• Immediately translate foreign language tweets into English.

It also says the information would be used to help it to predict the likely actions of “bad actors”, detect instances of people deliberately misleading law enforcement officers and spot the vulnerabilities of suspect groups.

The FBI issued the request three weeks after the US Department of Homeland Security released a separate report into the privacy implications of monitoring social media websites.

It justified the principle of using information that users have provided and not opted to make private.

“Information posted to social media websites is publicly accessible and voluntarily generated. Thus the opportunity not to provide information exists prior to the informational post by the user,” it says.

It noted that the department’s National Operations Center had a policy in place to edit out any gathered information which fell outside of the categories relevant to its investigations.

It listed websites that the centre planned to monitor. They include YouTube, the photo service Flickr, and Itstrending.com – a site which shows popular shared items on Facebook.

It also highlighted words it looked out for. These include “gangs”, “small pox”, “leak”, “recall” and “2600” – an apparent reference to the hacking-focused magazine.

Kim Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, the founder of file-sharing website Megaupload has appeared in a New Zealand court seeking bail.

German national Kim Dotcom was arrested with three others in Auckland on Friday in a raid requested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Kim Schmitz has been accused of internet piracy and money laundering.

Prosecutors say he is a flight risk. The court later delayed a decision on bail.

“Given the breadth of issues covered in this bail application and the seriousness of the issues, I am going to reserve my decision,” said Judge David McNaughton.

Kim Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, the founder of file-sharing website Megaupload has appeared in a New Zealand court seeking bail

Kim Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, the founder of file-sharing website Megaupload has appeared in a New Zealand court seeking bail

US authorities want to extradite Kim Dotcom. Federal prosecutors have accused Megaupload – one of the internet’s largest file-sharing sites – of costing copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenue.

Megaupload, on the other hand, said it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.

Kim Dotcom holds German and Finnish passports, and is a resident of Hong Kong and New Zealand.

“Mr. Dotcom emphatically denies any criminal misconduct or wrongdoing,” Kim Dotcom’s lawyer, Paul Davison, said.

Prosecutor Anne Toohey, however, said that Kim Dotcom was a significant flight risk, citing his multiple passports, financial resources and previous criminal convictions for hacking and insider trading.