Their objectives may be different but both Google and the “investment arm of the CIA” are funding the same startup: Recorded Future. According to a piece in Wired both In-Q-Tel (the CIA investment firm) and Google will have a seat on the company’s board.
This is reportedly the first time the government and Google have invested in the same company, though as Wired points out both have done business with the same companies in the past (e.g., Keyhole, which became Google Earth).
Recorded Future mines public data online and other available data sources and tries to identify patterns that are predictive of future events. This is not wiretapping or legally questionable activity (according to the article) though many are unsettled by the concept of data-mining in general. There’s another discussion to be had regarding what people are sharing online and whether they should be (see general Facebook privacy discussion).
Yet the mere association of Google, the CIA and a data mining startup will be upsetting to some. It quickly brings out the “big brother” paranoia.
The CIA presumably wants to use the technology to help predict terrorism and monitor terrorist chatter and activity. Google probably has a range of other ideas about how the technology might be used in search or in mobile contexts to provide information or facilitate commercial activity.
If Google were eventually to buy the company (with the government’s blessing) the defense/intelligence component could be spun off, as Nokia recently did with Metacarta’s defense business.