The history of Open Source Intelligence

Open source intelligence (OSINT) is a method of collecting and analyzing publicly available resources to advance research, competitive intelligence, general information, and even IT security. OSINT has been around for a long time and is still evolving.

In 1883, upstate New York began blogging about open source intelligence. Here one of the most influential figures in the intelligence community was born. William Donovan was the son of a devout Irish immigrant who grew up in a working-class family and excelled in school and academia. It was through the efforts of Donovan and President Roosevelt that the U.S. intelligence agencies were created. After Pearl Harbor, Donovan's department was renamed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the precursor to the CIA. It's like the UK's Special Operations Executive, the OSS is involved in everything from assassinations to agents to information warfare.

After World War II, the discipline of OSINT became important in most government and military agencies. Career researchers are also beginning to be staffed.

Over the decades, OSINT gradually lost momentum, falling into a sleep-like quiescence during the Cold War and even 9/11.

So, what sparked OSINT's comeback?

The Iranian Green Revolution of 2009 reignited enthusiasm for OSINT as citizens and journalists produced and posted content on Twitter in near real time, providing a wealth of data. Not even a year later, this happened again in the Arab world, and then again and again, until today. The modern OSINT renaissance seems to stem from the convergence of technology and phenomena.

OSINT will not stand still, other technologies will continue to enhance and change OSINT practice. In the future, it is likely to see machine learning (ML), virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), and artificial intelligence (AI) impact the development and use of OSINT.

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