Most DARPA challenges serve some sort of obvious military or intelligence purpose. But the agency has us scratching our heads over its latest competition, the Network Challenge: a $40,000 cash prize will go to the first person who finds the correct latitude and longitude of ten weather balloons located within the continental United States.
The DARPA Network Challenge kicked off on Thursday to commemorate the Internet's 40th anniversary, and marked four decades since the first message was sent over the Department of Defense's ARPANET.
Each of the 10 red balloons will be placed in hidden but publicly accessible locations during the daylight hours of December 5. Would-be balloon hunters can start registering for the challenge on December 1, and have until December 14 to submit balloon locations to the contest website.
DARPA has left only the vaguest clues as to its intentions, but it's clear that the mad science lab has a strong interest in leveraging the power of online social networking. The contest rules note that the agency "will compute aggregate statistics," and may contact contestants "to discuss the means and methods used in solving the challenge."
Still, this particular challenge can't help but remind us of the CIA's recent investment in a firm that monitors social networking. Perhaps the Department of Defense has even hit upon a more cost-effective approach for just $40,000 (and there's no prize for second place).
In any case, DARPA clearly hopes to mine useful surveillance or tracking techniques based on existing Internet tools. Future intelligence analysts and field agents might gather intel and communicate in ways that ape how social networks already find news nuggets, gossip tidbits and the latest hot spots. Which leads us to this question -- tweet much, Jack Bauer?
This is anti-terroism research at its best. By seeing how long it takes the masses, motivated by only $40,000, to find 10 red ballons, they will be able to see how the masses move via the internet for other, more practical mass survalience needs.
Note the effect of this has already changed the world in some ways. I'll give the great example of McDonalds' Monopoly sweepstakes. It used to be that McDonalds could control the number of prizes by controling the number of key pieces (only 30 boardwalk pieces and 30 parkplace pieces meant that you might not even have one million dollar winner, etc). With the internet, however, people were networking to exchange pieces (and split prizes) resulting in a prize sceme that was too efficient (resulting in too many give-aways). They now added a game of chance to the million dollar shots and even encouraged social networking in their commercials.
So, knowing how the power of the masses linked on the internet can work to gether as an intellegence gathering entity (by ourselves or our foes), DARPA can see how better to disrupt the enemy or use our own people to greatest effect for gathering intellegence.
Very interesting Oakspar77777!... Would you join the challenge?...
It could be used to spy on themselves, too!
The tactic could be used to see if the balloon launching spot(or other classified info) gets out to family or friends, and other things like that!... I think!
Oakspar77777 very interesting!!!
Red40k.com will be setup to take balloon location submissions and paypal $3000 to the first email address associated with a correct balloon location, if we win the $40k.
How about using DARPA's defense spending for peaceful purposes?
www.darpaballoon.com will use the $40k to promote peace.
"It used to be that McDonalds could control the number of prizes by controling the number of key pieces (only 30 boardwalk pieces and 30 parkplace pieces meant that you might not even have one million dollar winner, etc). "
If I'm not mistaken, Mcdonald's never limited the top prize [or any prize] by making all of the pieces uncommon --- it was by making ONE particular piece in a goup as uncommon as they'd want the prize to be [ie, if they want to give away up to 5 Ford Mustanges, they would produce exactly five of one of the required pieces and then any number of the others.
If they created 30 of each $1M prize peices then you'd almost never see either one of them, but in reality, Park Place hasn't been an uncommon piece for me to find.
It would be cool if the person who found the balloons said fuck you to DARPA and not explain how he/she found them.
Why would they do it? Simple. its a test of the new internet monitoring software. Everyone has heard of "red flags", now they will attempt to track & monitor people online using keywords such as red balloon, balloon location, ect. (Wonder what idiot gets the 6 figures a year to come up with some thing that original)
As for giving away 40K of "our tax dollars" for a government test, that's cheap. BTW your doing all of the work, not to mention helping them strip us of our freedom/privacy.
I’ve established a team of my own, called Team DeciNena. We will win because we have the wittiest name. ;)
And we are “cupcake-free”.
No, seriously, whomever wins will be using a mixture of all sorts of tactics from team recruiting to passive data mining. I'm sure there will be a lot of disinformation out there, and it will be important to combat it.
Join us, it's free, and you could actually win something. We're even sharing some reward money with those team participants who DON'T themselves find a balloon.
The team site is decinena.com
We have a strong team (I Spy a Red Balloon) that is giving all of the prize money to charity (Red Cross). If you see a red balloon in the sky on Dec. 5th, let us know at:
or at facebook
(text messages): (262) I-SPY-SPY (262-477-9779)