By Reuven Cohen, Contributor Forbes
If you are thinking about tweeting about clouds, pork, exercise or even Mexico, think again. Doing so may result in a closer look by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In a story appearing earlier today on the U.Kâ€™s Daily Mail website, it was reported that the DHS has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor various social networking sites. The list provides a glimpse into what DHS describes as â€œsigns of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.â€
The list was posted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center who filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, before suing to obtain the release of the documents. The documents were part of the departmentâ€™s 2011 â€™Analystâ€™s Desktop Binderâ€˜ used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify â€˜media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activitiesâ€™.
The information sheds new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats. The Daily Mailâ€™s article noted the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote a letter to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, describing itâ€™s choice of words as â€˜broad, vague and ambiguousâ€™.
What wasnâ€™t disclosed is how the agency actually gains access to the various search engines and social networks to monitor the specified keywords. My guess is the DHS has a â€œspecial arrangementâ€ with companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Twitter to gain secure direct API access. This type of access would allow it to use distributed cloud technologies to monitor the daily flow of social media and search activity in something close to real time.
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