D.A.R.P.A. Builds “Scary” Internet Tool That Allows Them Punch Through All Layers of the “Deep Web” and the “Dark Web” and Then Stuff That’s Not Even On The Web


From the same people that brought you autonomous “corpse eating robots” so you know it’s got to be safe!

They say they are using these powers for good, so I guess it’s A-OK then.

KAUFMAN: So we find this phone number. So now what you’re going to see here is the person that was associated with the phone number. This is every single website and every single phone number that that guy is connected to. So we’re starting to draw the map of what looks like a trafficking ring.

SIEGEL: Starting with that single email address, that single clue, using Memex Dan Kaufman has found a name and then a whole series of additional phone numbers linked through advertisements. Perhaps there’s one underlying group behind this long list of ads for sexual services. And as Kaufman demonstrates, the ads can be mapped. They’re on sites all over the globe.

KAUFMAN: We can also place these things geographically. Some of the ads are in California. Some are in Joplin, Mo., and we’re seeing some in Southeast Asia.

SIEGEL: Well, can you actually match pictures?

KAUFMAN: We can.

SIEGEL: The images of women leaning seductively into the camera are blurred, Dan Kaufman says to preserve investigators’ sanity, but the computer doesn’t have any trouble spotting even the tiniest details.

KAUFMAN: Some of the pictures are in blue, so that says every single picture we believe is the same person. We can also tell you if it’s the same camera. So either A – I’m seeing a woman being moved from place to place as trafficking, or I’m seeing the same people used over and over again. And again, I’m starting to see connections, so I can see this actually looks like a large, complex network.

SIEGEL: But you’re not just finding that it’s the very same picture. You’re finding that it is a picture of the same or a very similar looking person.

KAUFMAN: That’s right, we do both. So obviously, the easy one…

SIEGEL: Is the same picture.

KAUFMAN: Same picture.

SIEGEL: But you go beyond that.

KAUFMAN: We go beyond that.

SIEGEL: Dan Kaufman’s colleague Wade Shen was standing nearby helping with the demonstration.

WADE SHEN: We can also find out things like, for instance, are these two pictures taken in the same hotel room? Whether or not the lighting is similar, whether or not the room environments are similar, whether or not the cameras are similar and so one, so it’s not just the individual them self.

KAUFMAN: It then gives him a clue. It says would you like to find similar pictures? So then he can click on the button and it will then search through the exact same database and here’s all…

SIEGEL: All the same picture…

KAUFMAN: All the same picture.

SIEGEL: …Of the same woman on different sites with different phone numbers.

KAUFMAN: So now you’re starting to see the power of it. So if you were just searching for one phone number you would never have found this.

SIEGEL: What I understand from this is – she’s the trademark is what she is of some operation.

KAUFMAN: That’s right.

SIEGEL: Who this person is might be quite irrelevant.

SHEN: It’s a signature of a ring.

SIEGEL: Signature of a ring, though the first impression you would have is that this woman is in Las Vegas.

KAUFMAN: That’s right.

SIEGEL: Not necessarily at all.

KAUFMAN: That’s exactly right. And now you can ask really interesting analyst questions. How many other websites have used the same camera? Can I look at it over time? Can I see the map? And we’re just empowering the cop. The police know these questions. They know how to do this, but they don’t have tools to do it, so they’re tracking it by onesies and it’s hard. And we’re trying to make their lives a little bit better.

SIEGEL: That’s Dan Kaufman. He has now left DARPA to work for Google. We also heard from Wade Shen, program manager at DARPA’s Information Innovation Office. Well, is Memex in fact making things better for law enforcement? In New York City, a human trafficking unit has been putting it to work.

CYRUS VANCE: Memex is a Google search on steroids.

  • Scary eh.

    • Drunk_by_Noon

      But not only is this a really “intense” search engine that drills-down to damn near the center of the earth and makes irrelevant the entire dark web, but it makes analytical decisions on the fly, and then can go off on its own (and get back to you later) while it follows up on contacts and connections that it thinks might be relevant.

      If it can’t find you now, it finds you a few years ago, and then starts walking forward while keeping track of your “connections” along the way and then following up on them to see if they have maintained contact with you, or anywhere you might have frequented. Then it looks for people that also have the same patterns in order to establish if you are them, or they might have a connection with you, or are one degree of separation apart with a common contact.

      That is of course only the stuff they are talking about.

    • Justin St.Denis

      Yes and no. No scarier than the proliferation of drones with cameras, frankly. I recently attended a local town council meeting and literally caused a sensation when I pointed out how much money could be saved in bylaw enforcement if the town had a few drones. Council was trying to get approval to hire two more bylaw enforcement officers. My suggestion pretty much killed that idea, because it was a GOOD and VALID idea.

      Like anything else, it is how it will be used that’s of concern. It is like the old argument that guns don’t kill people, people do.

    • Norman_In_New_York

      DARPA, after all, invented the Internet to begin with. For more than 40 years, it has been engaged in turning science fiction into fact.

      As for drones, they arose out of those remote controlled battery operated toy airplanes that used to buzz our neighborhoods. An engineer reasoned that such devices had military applications in reconnaissance with miniature cameras and transmitters packed on board, and the rest is history.

      • Justin St.Denis

        I know, which is why the non-regulation of same rather surprises me. I can understand a chick getting upset as she sunbathes and some azzhole flies a drone over her property. I get it. I believe one would be within one’s rights to shoot the drone down with a pellet gun, which I have seen done while visiting relatives in Virginia.

  • Minicapt

    We were doing some of this two decades ago, but the software has improved.