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The value of open source intelligence in the 21st century

Expert.ai Team - 31 October 2016

This article should be enough to understand the growing value of open source intelligence in recent years. It highlights some of the things that we’ve been talking about for years, namely the importance of combining qualitative and quantitative data and using software that can simulate human capabilities to help people and businesses become more efficient.

According to the definition by NATO (“OSINT is information that has been deliberately discovered, discriminated, distilled, and disseminated to a select audience, generally the commander and his/her immediate staff, in order to address a specific question”), OSINT plays a key role in national security. But the value of Open Source Intelligence has not been limited to the military context: OSINT is equally helpful in collecting the strategic information that allows companies and businesses to empower the decision-making process.

Why the value of Open Source Intelligence is increasingly important in the 21st century

There are many reasons to rely on Open Source Intelligence, but in this blog post we want to examine two that are, in our opinion, most important:

1. Unclassified information

The Open Source Intelligence became important after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. Websites, blogs, forums, magazines and social media were recognized as potentially valuable sources of information that could help government, security operations, law enforcement and even individuals better understand the world and support analysts in identifying identify threats and risks.

Organizations don’t need to look very hard for classified or secret information: The 80% of what they need is freely available on open sources. The challenge is being able to find the strategic information hidden massive volumes of data available on the web and on public sources.

2. The power of social media

When Facebook launched in 2004, few people could have anticipated its current success and significance in not only our everyday lives, but also in terms of media and advertising. However Facebook and other social media outlets like Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, etc. offer strategic information about people’s real, unfiltered opinions, sentiment, as well as indicators of trends, etc. Monitoring social media is no longer optional, but a requirement for any organization due to their potential for providing real-time, crucial insight.

As Army Gen. Joseph L.Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said, “We all must view this space (social media) as a routine operational area: It is redefining how humans interact. Our success in leveraging these tools will be determined by how well we cultivate the networks in which we participate”.

With this explosion of information (that is unclassified, free and available, especially on the web and on social media), the value of Open Source Intelligence is clear: The ability to understand, identify and exploit this information can help effectively manage business process and predict critical events.