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Thursday, November 8, 2012
by Michael Loatman
An agency of the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security likely was monitoring social media communications
when determining the impact of Hurricane Sandy, but a Nov. 8 DHS report promised that it was not collecting personally
identifiable information (PII) from everyone who tweeted about
The report said that DHS's Office of
Operations Coordination and Planning, National Operations Center
(NOC), compiles information for the federal government, and state
and local government as appropriate, regarding "a natural disaster,
act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster." Those reports now
include information gleaned from monitoring social media, in
addition to traditional media, the agency said.
"By examining open source
traditional and social media information, comparing it with many
other sources of information, and including it where appropriate
into reports, the NOC can provide a more comprehensive picture of
breaking or evolving events," the report said.
The agency said it established a
Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational
Awareness Initiative Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) in 2010, which
was updated in 2011. The new report concluded that NOC continued to
meet its obligations under the PIA during the latest bi-annual
review period of March 1 to Aug. 30.
The PIA said that the agency will
only include PII from seven groups "when doing so lends credibility
to the report or facilitates coordination with interagency or
international partners." Those groups include senior U.S. and
foreign government officials, U.S. and foreign individuals in life
or death circumstances, reporters using social media, and
terrorists or drug cartel leaders.
DHS also said it would not actively
seek out PII, post information on social media sites, accept
"friend" invitations on social media, or interact with any
individuals on social media websites. For example, it said NOC's
Twitter account had not posted tweets, added any followers, or
followed any individuals.
Copyright 2012, The Bureau of
National Affairs, Inc.
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