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DARPA wants to out-Google-Google

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The military, researchers, and spooks have long known of the value of public domain information, and now DARPA wants to create a search engine to out-Google-Google in the business of organising that information.

The agency has put out a call for developers to work on “domain-specific indexing, domain-specific search, and DoD-specified applications”.

DARPA's complaint is that the Internet search paradigm isn't really so useful for a specialist: going after information with Google “remains a largely manual process that does not save sessions, requires nearly exact input with one-at-a-time entry, and doesn't organize or aggregate results beyond a list of links,” the agency says.

The agency also remarks that the so-called “deep web” is missed by standard search engines (hence the name), and that search engines like Google and Bing “ignore shared content across pages”.

It also has an application for the project: first up, it wants to use the search engine to combat human trafficking: “The use of forums, chats, advertisements, job postings, hidden services, etc., continues to enable a growing industry of modern slavery. An index curated for the counter-trafficking domain, along with configurable interfaces for search and analysis, would enable new opportunities to uncover and defeat trafficking enterprises,” DARPA's release states.

It's called on a name from the past for the program: Memex, coined in a 1945 The Atlantic Monthly article by Vannevar Bush, director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development during WW2. Bush imagined a “mesh of associative trails” running through documents to help users both search and gain insights from the information available to them.

DARPA is at pains to emphasise that Memex isn't interested in de-anonymisation applications, nor does it want the search engine attribute identity to IP addresses or servers, nor access information not intended to be published. ®

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