Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big Brother Is Watching

The Electronic Privacy Information Center recently released a document obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that details US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) monitoring of social networks/media on the Internet (download the PDF file here). The document has a lengthy list of Items of Interest keywords that DHS searches for in Twitter tweets, Facebook pages, and forum and blog posts. Automated programs troll the Net vacuuming up information and if a keyword (or certain sequence of keywords) occurs, the source is flagged, and a human analyst reviews the content.

Government monitoring of the Net is nothing new (obligatory ECHELON reference). I remember back in the pre-Internet 1980s, conspiracy-minded programmers would often include a signature line in their email messages and USENET posts that contained words such as CIA, KGB, Cuba, Bomb, and Mossad. Dubbed NSA bait, the thought was the words would set off alarm bells somewhere and an analyst would be forced to view the message contents; which had nothing to do with national security. Salting messages with suspicious keywords was probably more about making a personal, anti-establishment statement than actually hindering monitoring operations.

There are at least three, non-government IP addresses (two in the Washington DC area and one in Paris) that frequently visit the NGO Security Blog at random hours of the day. These aren't search engine bots and I've long thought this blog has been on someone's monitor list. If the DHS keyword list is any indication, it's pretty clear why. Considering the variety of state and non-state actors, locations, and topics that have been discussed in this blog over the years (Al Qaeda, UN, drug cartels, Afghanistan, Somalia, flu, and tsunami, to name a few), whistles and bells must have been going off in one or more monitoring centers.

So here's a shout-out to any government or contractor analyst who may reading this post. Nothing to see here, move along...

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home