CIA invests in geodata expert OpenGeo

The world might be fed up with the idea of government surveillance, but that hasn’t quelled the intelligence community’s thirst for more data and better tools to analyze it. The latest example: On Thursday, geospatial data expert OpenGeo announced a investment from In-Q-Tel, an arm of the U.S. intelligence community, originally spun out of the CIA, that makes strategic investments in technologies that could benefit the community’s mission.

Reading through In-Q-Tel’s list of investments is like reading a who’s who of data startups: 10gen, Cloudera, Narrative Science, Palantir and Platfora are among the companies into which it has put money. When it comes to technologies that can store lots of data or new types of data, or analyze or visualize data in novel ways, In-Q-Tel is interested.

OpenGeo, then, is a natural choice. Its open-source software lets users store, analyze and create maps from the data they collect about locations. The FCC’s National Broadband Map (pictured below), for example, is based on part of the OpenGeo stack of technologies. It’s not too difficult to envision how the CIA or the NSA might take their mountains of geotagged data — anything from call records to tweets to census data — and begin to analyze it or put it on a map.

OpenGeo was created in 2008 as part of the OpenPlans non-profit organization and spun out in May 2013 after raising $3 million from Vanedge Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital firm.