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Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is the intelligence that people obtain from different sources, which are available publicly. Therefore, OSINT includes sources such as newspapers, computer-based information, social-networking sites, blogs, government reports, demographics, academic papers, conferences, gazetteers, aeronautical data, just to mention a few. Collection, exploitation, and dissemination of the publicly available data should take place in a timely way to an intended audience to address an intelligence requirement. Whether or not OSINT is intelligence is a debatable topic. This discussion will consider whether OSINT is intelligence or not, as well as how and why non-intelligence community users use OSINT.
People have rated OSINT highly as a source material for information collectors and analysts until today. Open-source information serves as a basis for verifying the veraciousness or untruthfulness of the local information through making comparisons. This promotes the availability of translations of broadcast and print media. The translations have enabled analysts to scan the media in the countries of their choice effectively and in an efficient manner. It has been possible to access convoluted messages from closed societies such as Albania and Korea. Therefore, individuals can have access to the sources they require efficiently and in the appropriate time, which makes OSINT to qualify to be an easy way to acquire information.
Acquiring of information on intelligence targets, discovering news, and following daily development may not be exploitative when people depend on official reports from overseas. This is because a small number of translated copies of information from the target countries will be available in a later date. However, in the advent of the Internet and the search engines, OSINT provides the intelligence officers with the relevant information every time they need it. It is evident that OSINT provides an intelligence analyst with about 80 percent of the materials required for the entire exercise. OSINT has promoted the development of the private sector because it allows the private firms to acquire information about their competitors, thereby encouraging competition within the private sector.
However, some people argue that OSINT is unreliable in dealing with terrorism, trans-national issues, guerrilla welfare, narcotic flows, or subversion, although it can allow people to know how other countries address these problems. OSINT may also mislead people because individuals can create blogs and disseminate whatever they want. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how to separate untruthful from veracious information. Disinformation is extremely dangerous, especially when people denigrate an enemy by disseminating false information wrapped around the nugget of truth.
A few non-intelligence community users of OSINT such as Law Enforcement and Government also benefit from OSINT in accomplishing a variety of issues. Law Enforcement uses OSINT in predicting, preventing, investigating, and prosecuting criminals. This is because Law Enforcement acquires enough information regarding the plans of terrorists and other criminals. Governments such as the United States Government use OSINT for monitoring media, analyzing media, and accomplishing public surveys and internet researches. For instance, the Federal Research Division (FRD) conducts researches locally and internationally with the help of OSINT, which provides information. The non-intelligence community users of OSINT are fewer than is the case with the intelligence community users.
In conclusion, OSINT is intelligence because it allows people to access a variety of information in an efficient manner. OSINT can allow a country to protect its citizens from enemies by being aware of the planned attacks. It enables the private firms to understand the production, advertisement, and promotion strategies that their competitors use. This enables the private firms to survive in a competitive environment. Only a few non-intelligence community users use OSINT, which can not disqualify the fact that OSINT is intelligence.