NSA lodges geolocation patent
The National Security Agency - the US's ultra-secretive signals intelligence corps - has patented a geolocation system that tries to pinpoint internet users based on their IP address. US patent 6,947,978, Method for geolocating logical network addresses, uses the latency of connections together with a network topology map to scope the approximate location of net users.
Some commercial firms (e.g. Quova) are already developing similar technology and (as often with US patents) it's unclear what, if any, innovation is involved. Applications of the technology cited in the patent include geographically targeted advertising, disabling use of a password from a computer located outside of a specified area or in signals intelligence. The latter two purposes would appear to fit more closely with NSA's core mission, but the agency's intended use of the technology remains something of a mystery.
The NSA traditionally remains tight-liped about the advanced technologies it develops, so its recent flurry into the world of patent and intellectual property is sure to excite the interests of many conspiracy buffs. The truth is out there, somewhere. ®
One of the more creative past NSA patents details a complex system for disposing of shredded paper.