Open-Source Intelligence in Service of Mega-Events

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7261526_m featureWritten by Meidata: Market Research & Competitive Intelligence

The launch of the world cup games in Brazil was followed by great excitement but also by great concern. The violence on the streets has been the talk of the day for the past few months, due to recurrent riots and confrontation with local police forces.

Brazil is putting a lot of effort into making international guests feel safe in an already violence struck country. The SESGE, special governmental agency in charge of overall security services during the world cup, spent tens of millions dollars on public security technologies during recent years. Amongst all Intelligence means of preventing and fighting crime, surveillance equipment and especially social media monitoring methods are most intriguing, particularly when large masses of people are involved.

Social media monitoring is a part of a larger family of Open Source intelligence (OSINT) tools. Yet, in this case the objects of analysis are those creating the substance matter that serves for intelligence analysis: vast amounts of data are uploaded by the users to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other online social networks, assisting Intelligence organizations to access crowd’s opinions and trends.

Methods of social media analysis were originally used for marketing, as means for revealing trends in public opinion concerning new products, services and brands.

Similar research techniques can also be applied for dealing with crime and have been in use in the last couple of years among law enforcement agencies, to gain a better insight of the public sphere. Social media monitoring gained significant momentum after the ‘Arab Spring’ revolts, and other large scale demonstrations in Europe. Data captured from social media enables law enforcement agencies to identify impending unlawful events and as a tool for prediction of future developments in social conflicts. Integration with other intelligence analytics (such as location tracking) makes it now possible to raise efficiency levels of police deployment and achieve better reaction time of its forces.

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

Social media monitoring also is beneficial for HLS forces in supervision of large scale events. For example, the Greeks established an OSINT task force to monitor news and identify threats back in the 2004 Olympics. The experiment led the Greek army to establish a “global OSINT Center” in 2006, which was composed of over 150 analysts following media sources and social media.

Another example is the National Intelligence Center within the New Zealand Police which deployed social media analytics tools during preparations for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The Police used social networks ‘sensors’ to geo-locate specific activity and filter results. The system provided an overview of locations and activities based on tweets and posts, which were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively (by content).

Back in 2009, Brazil already invested in equipment designated for the interception of web communications, specifically chat rooms, Skype and P-2-P programs. Since then Police forces were also tracking gangs and football hooligans on social networks to predict riots and unrest, and it appears social media is yielding results.

Social media monitoring might be put to a test during the World Cup games in Brazil and lessons hopefully will be learned in preparation for the Olympics which will be held in the country in 2016.