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April 29th, 2013
06:07 PM ET

Companies cash in on, exploit Boston bombings

Many of us have seen the surveillance footage and stills of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers. Now, some companies in the monitoring industry see an opportunity for some free publicity.

Wired contributing editor Noah Shachtman, who runs the national security blog "Danger Room," compiled some of the most notable PR pitches, like this statement from Ubiquity Broadcasting Corporation's CEO Chris Carmichael announcing the company's new video intelligence software: "The Boston marathon bombing has proven the need for real time video and data analysis from all types of cameras."

Fair game for the companies, or exploiting a tragedy?

"These companies are just trying to take advantage of a marketing opportunity, it's just a question of how sleazy or not you believe those marketing opportunities to be," said Shachtman.

Some of the companies were directly involved in the investigations, like iRobot - one of its machines investigated one of the suspect's cars. It is a Boston-based company, and has also sent tens of thousands of robots to Afghanistan. iRobot, is "one of the real deals," says Shachtman.

"It's the sort of wannabes that are a little bit more offensive," said Shachtman. For example, FaceFirst, a facial recognition company, sent out several press releases about the important work the company is getting because facial recognition caught the Boston bombers.

"There's only one small problem with that, facial recognition did not catch the Boston bombers," said Shachtman.

These smaller companies are trying to get their names out there, but the larger defense contractors' strategy will likely be more low-key.

"But you can bet that all the major defense contractors ... are working the halls of Congress, working the halls of the various armed services promoting their products," said Shachtman.

"It's part of life, it's part of the way these companies do business," said Shachtman, "but that doesn't make it cool."

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