In case there was any doubt who’s monitoring what we post to social media sites, count the Secret Service in the mix.
The agency posted a solicitation Monday seeking software to monitor social media sites for “real-time open source intelligence.”
The full description of what the Secret Service is after is only available to vendors who request it and prove their credentials.
Such tools typically mine through publicly available tweets, Facebook posts and posts to other social media sites such as Reddit and Quora looking for intelligence about people or events. They’re distinct from controversial tools used by the National Security Agency and disclosed by leaker Edward Snowden, which are seemingly capable of monitoring private posts.
A recent social media privacy guide printed by the government’s Chief Information Officers Council lists intelligence gathering as a legitimate government use of social media, provided it complies with federal laws and executive orders.
The policy also approves of so-called “situational awareness” social media monitoring by non-law enforcement or intelligence agencies, provided the agency levels with the public about the sort of information it’s looking for and how it will use it. Such monitoring programs can be used to gauge how the public is responding to a particular government initiative.