Popular uprisings in the Mideast and North Africa, and now, Occupy Wall street: all examples of popular unrest powered in part by Twitter and other online social networks. In response, the U.S. government is reported to now be developing guidelines for culling intel from social media, according to a Homeland Security official.
Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said the use of such technology in uprisings that started in December in Tunisia shocked some officials into attention and prompted questions of whether the U.S. needs to do a better job of monitoring domestic social networking activity.
"We're still trying to figure out how you use things like Twitter as a source," she said. "How do you establish trends and how do you then capture that in an intelligence product?"
Wagner said the department is establishing guidelines on gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes. Wagner says those protocols are being developed under strict laws meant to prevent spying on U.S. citizens and protect privacy, including rules dictating the length of time the information can be stored and differences between domestic and international surveillance.