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Guide to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

Hayden, Michael Edison

Open source intelligence, which researchers and security services style OSINT, is one of the most valuable tools to a contemporary reporter, because of the vast amount of publicly available online information.

Reporters conducting OSINT-based research should aspire to use the information they gather online to peer behind the superficial mask of the internet—the anonymous avatars on Twitter, for example, or the filtered photographs on Instagram—and tell the story of the real, flesh-and-blood human beings on the other side of our screens.

Every time we go online, we give up part of our identity. Sometimes, it comes in the form of an email used to make a Twitter account. Other times, it’s a phone number for two-factor authentication, or days’ and weeks’ worth of timestamps suggesting when a user is awake and asleep. Journalists can piece together clues like this and use them to tell stories which are of interest to the public.

The following guide is written to provide a basic foundation not only for doing that work, but also for verifying the information, archiving findings, and interacting with hostile communities online.

The closer we get to understanding the people who make the influential and newsworthy aspects of the internet happen—and their motivations—the easier our work of discovery becomes.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Journalism
Publisher
Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University
Series
Tow Center for Digital Journalism Publications
Published Here
January 15, 2020
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