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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Blogs as open-source intel 

Investor's Business Daily (via Yahoo) brings us the unsurprising (to me) news that the U.S. intelligence community might be starting to keep an eye on blogs as they gather information. It makes sense, because there just may be a piece of information on a blog that they aren't aware of. And if that can help to enhance national security, good on 'em. The article starts out with a dumb intro,

People in black trench coats might soon be chasing blogs
but it quickly settles into a discussion of why the intel community is considering blog-watching. Really, most of the people doing this work are sitting in a cubicle in a shirt and tie. But anyway...

Some blogs are whimsical and deal with "soft" subjects. Others, though, are cutting edge in delivering information and opinion.

As a result, some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others, even with the knowledge that the accuracy of what's reported in some blogs is questionable.

Still, a panel of folks who work in the U.S. intelligence field - some of them spies or former spies - discussed this month at a conference in Washington the idea of tracking blogs.
Like I said, it's a good idea. If it helps them to find and analyze information, or fills them in on events they might not have been aware of, it could be a great addition to their traditional collection methods. One thing people need to realize is that if they post something on a blog, anyone can read it, and has the right to do so. The intelligence community pays a lot of attention to foreign print and broadcast journalism, and blogs are a similar medium. It's all out in the open, so anyone can access it. That's one of the things that makes journalism and blogging so important.

A few bloggers think this is some kind of invasion of privacy, or they attribute any number of dark motives to the intelligence interest in blogs. But it's just another tool in their bag of intelligence collection tricks, and nothing to be feared. (And for those few people who think their blogs are part of some "underground" network... hello, it's the web, stupid.)

Heck, I've gotten a few visits from the Open Source Information System myself. While I doubt there's anything particularly helpful to them here, who knows? And if there is, good for them, for paying attention to the extensive global information repository (and firsthand reporting system) that is the blogosphere.
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