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  U.S. trial program would spy on Internet users to prevent animal abuse
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ContributorCraverguy 
Last EditedCraverguy  Mar 27, 2012 12:25pm
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CategoryNews
AuthorStephen C. Webster
News DateTuesday, March 27, 2012 04:50:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offered an unusual contract (PDF) this month, soliciting bids from private software developers for a trial program that would scour the Internet for detailed information on all animal sales, potential animal welfare abuses and other unlawful economic activities relating to animals within the U.S.

In other words, the U.S. government is preparing to spend taxpayer money to spy on Americans’ Internet use, so that it can better protect animals and ensure their handlers have paid for all the proper licenses.

The program, according to a contract publicly available on FedBizOpps.gov, would see a third party developer creating a system that scours forums, websites, usenet groups, social media — and even live chat rooms — for any information relating to sales of pets, exotic animals, animals used for exhibit, teaching, testing or other experimentation, and, particularly, any and all potentially unlicensed hose shows or auctions.

The contract was offered as a six month pilot project, and it’s not clear how much money the USDA is prepared to put up for it. They also specify: “THE SCAN SHALL BE VIA INTERNET WEB TECHNOLOGY SEARCH ENGINE TOOLS, NOT A HUMAN BEING” — although humans would still have to rifle through the information collected by whatever software is created.

It specifies the realms of its search as: “Global Domain Registrations; World Wide Web; Social Networking Web sites; Web logs (Blogs); IRC/Chat conversations; Message Boards; Public email groups and discussion forums; Usenet Data; Auctions – eBay.com and Yahoo.com Auctions.”
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