2.1 Defining Open Source Intelligence Gathering
Open Source Intelligence or OSINT simply refers to information that is publicly available and is determined to have intelligence value by the collectors of the information.
“It’s important to note that information does not equal intelligence. Without giving meaning to the data we collect, open-source findings are considered raw data. It is only once this information is looked at from a critical thinking mindset and analyzed that it becomes intelligence.
For instance, conducting OSINT is not simply saving someone’s Facebook friends list. It’s about finding meaningful information that is applicable to the intelligence question and being able to provide actionable intelligence in support of an investigation. Another way to look at it is to answer, “why does this data matter” and provide meaningful intelligence about the data collected.
OSINT is drawn from publicly available material, including:
• Public Records
• News media
• Social media platforms
• Images, Videos
• The Dark web”
We would also add sources such as information found in public registries and produced by public bodies where the information is required by law to be made public. These sources could include court records and land title records in many jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction has its own nuances, for example in some jurisdictions beneficial ownership records of corporations or arrest records are publicly available information.
Open Source Intelligence is not information that is obtained from private or classified sources. Private conversations, such as messages between two individuals or where an organization has produced something on a restricted area of their website which can only be accessed by a few select people is not OSINT. Furthermore, information where a judicial authority is required to obtain the information is not considered publicly available information. If the information is produced by an individual it has to be “left” in the public domain (i.e. posted on a public portion of a social media site) or must be required by law to be made public.
In recent years the term “Social Media Intelligence” or SOCMINT has emerged as subset of OSINT. SOCMINT refers to information collected from, you guessed it, social media sources. For the purposes of this material we will refer to all publicly available information, including material collected from social media as Open Source Intelligence or OSINT.