According to a report by APP the Australian government has been working on two different types of software that will look into the conversations taking place on different forms of social media.
The first new tool is called Emergency Situational Awareness (ESA) and has been designed to help the emergency services in Australia learn about disasters as quickly as possible.
The software for ESA has taken years to develop by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and is currently being trialled by the Defense Department in Australia and also by Geoscience Australia and the Queensland Government.
It is hoped that this technology will be able to pick up on key words that are being tweeted about and posted on Facebook to be able to learn about disasters as they happen and to also be able to pinpoint areas that have been affected as quickly as possible.
The ESA system looks through public Twitter profiles to find clusters of key words such as “Earthquake” or “storm” and when it finds a cluster the information is then passed onto the emergency services.
This technology has already been proven to help when back in August it helped to pinpoint and detect a grass fire in the outback of Queensland. Before any calls to the emergency services were made by members of the public people had already tweeted about what they were seeing.
Arwen Cross from CSIRO told APP: “People who were driving past on the highway, albeit from a distance, were tweeting about it and that happened before anyone thought to ring the fire brigade.
“It basically meant they could start looking at whether they needed to evacuate the hiospital 20 minutes earlier than they would have if they’d been waiting for a phone call.”
While the ESA service is being welcomed by most people as being a very positive use of government monitoring of social media the other tool being developed, known as Vizie, is not being welcomed so warmly.
The Vizie software is used to monitor conversations taking place across a variety of social media forms and across websites with the content of these converstions then being used by different government departments to get feedback.
The tool could also be used for passing on public relations messages or for the government to be able to respond to users about certain issues.
Both of the new tools only monitor what is already publicly available, Arwen Cross added: “When you send out a tweet you know that the world is going to read it.”