Let's face it: the world is more Orwellian than it used to be. With technological innovations in the past ten years alone--social media, smartphones, widespread Wi-Fi--we're able to communicate more often, more publicly and more traceably than ever before, and the notion of the government watching what we're saying scares the heck out of a lot of people. The New York Federal Reserve Bank is the latest organization to express interests in monitoring social media. This week, Fast Company confirmed the Fed's plans to hire a firm to conduct "sentiment analysis" on social networks around the world, but despite what you might read on conspiracy theory blogs, it's not as Big Brother-ish as it sounds.
In September, a document leaked online and posted in full below revealing details of how the Fed wants to keep a virtual finger on the public's pulse. In requesting proposals for a "Sentiment Analysis and Social Media Monitoring Solution," the Fed wants to hire a company that can "monitor billions of conversations," "handle crisis situations" as well as "identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers." The monitoring isn't meant help guide the Fed's policy decisions but rather improve its public relations--and if you've been watching the GOP debates or paying attention to Occupy Wall Street protests, you'll know that the Fed is elbow deep in bad press lately. A representative from the Fed told Fast Company of their plan, "The reason for contemplating such an effort is to get a better sense of the relevant concerns and discussions that are taking place in the public domain in order to improve our communications and engagement with the public."