Federal Reserve wants to read your Facebook posts

Complaints on Twitter or Facebook about jobs or rising food prices may become fodder for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s assessments of the world’s current economic conditions.

The bank has issued a request for proposals seeking a contractor to help gauge the nation’s economic mood by sampling conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

The bank said it wants a Sentiment Analysis and Social Media Monitoring Solution to gather and report data from around the world, in multiple languages, on a continuous basis.

The proposal calls for “Social Media Listening Platforms” to be created to “monitor billions of conversations” and generate text analytics.

Although the bank is billing the project as run-of-the-mill situational awareness, some bloggers are warning of Big Brother concerns.

“The Fed has just entered the counterespionage era and will be monitoring everything written about it anywhere in the world,” Tyler Durden, blogger for ZeroHedge.com, wrote in a blog entry breaking the news of the bank’s plans on Sept. 25.

A bank spokesman further described the plans in an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Bank officials state in the RFP that they want to stay current on public opinion, and social media monitoring provides a means to do that.

“Social media platforms are changing the way organizations are communicating to the public,” the request states. “Conversations are happening all the time and everywhere. There is need for the Communications Group to be timely and proactively aware of the reactions and opinions expressed by the general public as it relates to the Federal Reserve and its actions on a variety of subjects.”

The platforms to be developed also may “determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document,” the RFP states. “The information gathered can guide the organization's public relations group in assessing the effectiveness of communication strategies.”

The solution will be used to help the Federal Reserve track the impact of messages and press releases, handle crisis situations, identify and reach key bloggers and opinion influencers, and spot emerging trends.

The platform also must be to analyze and provide overviews of public opinion on certain topics and include a dashboard that can be customized.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Oct 4, 2011

This is nothing new. Companies around the world monitor social media outlets to gain perspective on public opinion. It's only news now because it's the Federal Reserve. Many Fortune 500 and 1000 companies have staff in "social media analyst" roles. They serve as Public Relations liaisons and are also a front line form of security, tracking potential social unrest and sentiment of ill will toward the company or any of it's employees. And it's no different for private institutions. While that seems a bit Big Brother-ish, you can't blame the organizations for protecting their interests. It is not so much about the organizations' will to control the public and manipulate them in some nefarious way. If folks feel that way, then perhaps they shouldn't buy into the smartphone hype, for example, and should stay away from social media...two of the most blatant forms of control and subjugation to which people don't seem to mind being enslaved.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

This is not a waste of taxpayers money since the fed is not a gov't agency... it's a private entity. Are as clearvision put it... a private and dishonest banking cartel.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

Another chance for banks to fill their pockets with more of our money taken directly from our pockets and from our government coffers. Greed is all this world is about. GREED

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

Sounds like another waste of taxpayers money. These organizations just need to concentrate on providing quality services at a reasonable cost and there should not be any big issues. When they go out of their way to try to politic their way with next-to-meaningless surveys and other expensive distractions is when things start going downhill.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

I presume that the SEC, the FBI and the stock exchanges are already doing this to see if there are 'cause /effect' swings in the market. 15 years ago I worked for a company that had a group that monitored the social media of the day. If a question was unanswered after a set amount of time, they would answer. We did press releases based on the misinformation that was roaming around on the web.

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