Here’s a piece I wrote for Defense Media Network about how our homeland security leaders are using and monitoring social media tools to identify potential security threats.

Social Media Surveillance – It’s Here to Stay

For better or worse, social media is the billboard of our lives in today’s digital world. If you have a thought, you can share it. If you want to know what your friends are up to, you can find out. If you want to know which number marriage Kim Kardashian is on or where Tim Tebow might be praying, that is also accessible to you as well.

These networks are equally insightful and useless, but they pull together information in all of its forms for viewers to use however they want. If someone puts a piece of information out there, regardless of what it is, someone will eventually find it and use it for their own purposes, regardless of whatever the original sharing intent might have been. This rule of the digital age seems fairly obvious, but there are those who continue to be surprised when the news media, private individuals, or others use social media sites for purposes other than being social. For example, law enforcement and intelligence-gathering purposes.

Recent news stories detailing how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was monitoring media outlets, news sites, and other social networking platforms have raised some eyebrows. Fears of an Orwellian government system of monitoring people’s behavior seemed to be conjured up by some outlets. Most notable is the Drudge Report’s oft-used moniker of “Big Sis” to describe an “Orwellian” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who apparently has enough time to go through everyone’s Facebook accounts and Twitter feeds to see who is being naughty or nice. Truth is the poor woman probably has barely enough time to read her own mail, let alone breathe.

It would be completely irresponsible for DHS, intelligence, or law enforcement authorities to ignore these valuable resources and the information and insights they can provide. With bad things happening in many forms and in many places, keeping one’s eyes and ears attuned to social media is an indispensable barometer of what is happening at any given time. Read the full story.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More