A CIA-linked firm has joined forces with Amazon in a bid to use “computer vision” to snoop on the Earth in unprecedented detail.
CosmiQ Works, a firm closely associated with the US intelligence agency, is working with the online retail giant and the satellite mapping firm DigitalGlobe to train algorithms to work out what’s happening on the surface of our planet.
Satellites can already capture astonishingly detailed images from up in space, but the CIA-linked project wants to go one step further and use artificial intelligence to analyse these pictures.
The partners hope to collect 60 million satellite images and store them in a database called SpaceNet which will be open and accessible by members of the public.
Programmers will then design algorithms which can work out what’s happening in the images or highlight the buildings, objects and natural features in the photos.
The project will be “fuelled by the massive amount of information about our changing planet that DigitalGlobe collects every day”.
However, the news is likely to send a chill down the spine of privacy campaigners and conspiracy theorists alike, because it conjures images of a world where surveillance satellites keep a watchful eye on all of us.
“Each minute something is happening in the world,” said Tony Frazier, senior vice president at DigitalGlobe.
“While commercial constellations are poised to collect imagery at global scale, we must advance our ability to analyse data to realise its full potential.
“SpaceNet is key to unlocking a huge explosion of new AI-driven applications that ultimately will help us better respond to natural disasters, counter global security threats, improve population health outcomes, and much more.
“The industry is coming together to power smarter algorithms so we can see and learn things from imagery about our planet that we simply cannot know today through manual techniques.”