Next time you write about an "infection," cooking "pork," sitting at the "airport" or "subway," or even mention "social media," know there's a chance the Department of Homeland Security will scan the tweet or Facebook comment.
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) just released DHS internal documents about the surveillance of social media and the information collected daily. EPIC gained access to the documents with a lawsuit, pushing the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents included hundreds of keywords that the government tracks.
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The Department of Homeland Security initiative started in February 2011. The department aimed to use social media to stay in-the-know about breaking news as it's happening. Tweets mentioning "attack" or "shooting" could, for instance, alert officials disturbances to national security right away.
"Social media outlets provide instant feedback and alert capabilities to rapidly changing or newly occurring situations," states U.S. Homeland Security internal documents. "The [Media Monitoring Capability team] works to summarize the extensive information from these resources to provide a well rounded operational picture for the Department of Homeland Security."
After EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request, the DHS released 285 pages of documents. DHS paid more than $11 million to General Dynamics to help monitor the Internet and provide the government with periodic reports.
EPIC sought full disclosure about the methods and breadth of the surveillance of media content. Plus, it wanted details about the dissemination of analysis reports to government partners. Now, the non-profit public interest organization is fighting to get DHS to stop surveying online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards completely.
"The agency has demonstrated no legal basis for its social network and media monitoring program, which threatens important free speech and expression rights," EPIC said in a Feb. 22 letter submitted to U.S. Congress.
EPIC says the surveillance of social media networks, public forums and websites violates the First Amendment and the Privacy Act of 1974.
Do you feel safer with U.S. Intelligence watching over what people say on the Internet? Or do you feel it's a violation of privacy? Tell us in the comments.
Thumbnail courtesy of Flickr, Hello Turkey Toe
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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