The US military has been investigating ways to track security threats by sourcing public data from social media sites including Twitter, according to the Financial Times.
An eight-day experiment by US Special Operations Command in Washington, Quantum Leap, gathered 50 government and industry participants in summer of 2012 to test how technology could be used to "identify and exploit human, commercial and information networks" within a money-laundering case.
This is according to a draft summary of the experiment obtained by Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, the think-tank.
The report cited the "pronounced utility of social media in exploiting human networks, including networks in which individual members actively seek to limit their exposure to the internet and social media".
Majorly used in this experiment was a vital tool named 'Social Bubble', which was a customised app for Special Operations to search and analyse Twitter data.
Social Bubble was said to be created by Creative Radicals, which was commissioned by Raptor X, an agency hired by Special Operations Command.
Twitter was reportedly not in the know about this experiment.
"These streams are available to anybody," was the response of Twitter after becoming aware of the Quantum Leap project.
"They're public streams."
Special Operations Command, meanwhile, downplayed the magnitude of the experiment, and said that the programme was no longer in existence and the people who worked on it were no longer with the command, according to the newspaper.
New America Foundation technology expert Sascha Meinrath, however, said, "Once again, we're left wondering about the answers to numerous questions: how far-reaching are these data collection efforts, how many more efforts are out there, how were companies facilitating these endeavours, and what is being done with the data being collected?"
It is said the that several defence companies market variations of Social Bubble for other government departments in the US and abroad.
These products can tap data which remains otherwise tucked away without sophisticated data mining and analysis software.
This information is used by government bodies to uncover from public sources to be later used as evidence presented to a judge when requesting a subpoena for private information, the newspaper added.