Posting in Technology
It's not only businesses spying upon competition -- the U.S. Department of Homeland Security monitors social media too. What are the keywords they look for?
A recently released manual created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has shed some interesting light on particular keywords that raise the eyebrows of analysts at the department who are responsible for monitoring social media activity.
Words including "dirty bomb", "grid", "epidemic" and "cops" are among hundreds of flagged words that are contained in the 39-page booklet (.pdf).
Recently released following a request under the Freedom of Information Act through a request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the DHS' National Operations Center (NOC) use the 2011 Analyst's Desktop Binder as a guide to what may be considered a "threat" online.
Social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, are watched in order to potentially weed out threats to the United States but to also monitor any commentary which may "reflect adversely" on the DHS or its "response activities", according to the guide. Other words include:
- El Paso
- Law enforcement
Anyone organizing to "dirty bomb the DHS before going to El Paso", take note --Twitter may not be the best place to discuss your plans.
The NOC collates this information and calculates potential "threat" levels. If you're looking forward to your holiday, tweeting anticipation of "destroying America" can get you on the suspicion list, as the extensive list does not necessarily take into account slang or alternative meanings.
The list is split into separate categories, including domestic security, health, and natural events. The manual also states it has three main missions in monitoring the flow of social media communication:
- To continually update "situational" information from social media;
- The second is to "constantly monitor all available open source information with the goal of expeditiously alerting the NOC Watch Team and other key Department personnel of emergent situations";
- The third, to instruct on how to analyze information gained from online and open sources.
Originally, the pilot scheme created by the DHS was intended to monitor information concerning specific events -- such as the earthquake in Haiti or the BP oil spill. However, after the volume of intelligence available online became obvious from sources other than standard media outlets, in 2010 the scheme went full-time.
Based on search terms like those mentioned above, the project expanded. It goes further than merely monitoring keywords, but also covertly and actively uses agents to pose on social networking site, in order to obtain personal information (such as names and affiliations) of those commenting online.
After these activities became known, EPIC requested information from the DHS about how far individuals are 'spied' upon, and after requests were effectively ignored, the FOI lawsuit went ahead -- resulting in the release of this booklet.
May 30, 2012
I was in El Paso for a conference, and was ready to head home. So I left my hotel early to avoid a car crash on the highway. I wanted to avoid the terror of being late and missing my flight, so when I arrived at the airport, I immediately went through TSA law enforcement security screening to get into the waiting rooms. While in the gates area, it started snowing outside. In El Paso! SNOW! So, I was reading an on-line magazine article about British Vodafone's CEO Arun Sarin, who was optimistic about a new deal with India's Essar mobile communications company. It's a good thing that there were no natural disasters like floods or earthquakes during their visit to India. The snow came down harder, and the wind picked up. Before long, I couldn't even see the runways or the planes. Then the airline announced that they had cancelled my flight due to the freak blizzard! So I went to one of the airport restaurants, and I had a wonderful PORK roast dinner. A couple of cops in uniform were sitting at a table next to me, finishing some coffee and donuts. One of them was coughing quite a bit, I think he had the flu. And after that big pork dinner, I sadly thought of how much exercise I would have to do at the gym after I get back home - IF I get back home!
The new movie was about a girls pipe dream of being an Olympic athlete, but the response from movie goers indicated the movie was a bomb. Do not see this disaster of a movie.
You forgot to say whether the cops were armed or not; given the situation at hand. Things must be a disaster due to the blizzard in El Paso. Have you ever crossed the border there? This would be really fun posting status updates on Facebook "Almighty Islam" Page. Or better yet my "Christians that carry guns", and "Iraq War Veterans for hire at Fox News" pages. Darn Birthers are killing us with the rockets red glare and dirty socks bombs. I refuse to eat Green eggs and ham or any pork at UN Hq in NYC Can you get me an encrypted cell phone, please? LOL for the subway tunnel asap.
DHS is just another beauracracy that has to spell things out for their people. Using keywords to flag communication is silly if it does not also include the context. The bigger issue is that the government is not pretending to follow its own rules to protect us from an overly zealous and ambitious beauracrat who will use their powers of investigation to go beyond national security.
No wonder the Internet is so slow; the government is monitoring everything. El Paso, TX How's that " Hope and Change" working for you?
- - protect us from an overly zealous and ambitious beauracrat - - For all the grief Bush got for no-warrent wire tapping, it is the Obama administration that kicked the program into high gear. After a lower court ruled the Bush monitoring unconstitutional in late 2008 the Obama administration appealed in 2009 and expanded the program. More calls were monitored in 2009 and 2010 than the entire 8 years of the Bush administration. The appeal is still working through the sluggish halls of justice while the monitoring continues.