Why use open source intelligence?

People use the internet to connect all over the world and share many aspects of their lives online. Investigators can use open source intelligence to investigate and disrupt crime, find missing persons and criminals, and keep society safe. Investigators should begin by gathering public information to better understand subjects and inform their decisions.

Open source intelligence is commonly used for five main purposes, which include:

1. People and business research: Provides an organization with background knowledge about a person, business, or event.

2. Risk assessment: Identify risks associated with an event, business or individual. This may involve businesses and individuals who are at risk or pose potential risks.

3. Situation assessment: Determine the current characteristics of the situation and determine the mindset of the people.

4. Environmental assessment: Assess terrain, weather, and civil factors to identify civil unrest or natural disaster events that may affect operations.

5. Health assessment: Monitor global health issues or infectious diseases to assess their full impact.

Investigators often collect and analyze a range of information during open source intelligence investigations. Depending on the type of investigation, different types of information will be relevant. Therefore, the five main purposes of open source intelligence can generally be executed in two main ways:

1. Personal and business information gathering: Investigators gather personally identifiable and business information to gain an understanding of subjects, which may include offenders and witnesses. The internet consists of different pieces, essentially "puzzle pieces," that when put together can reveal a lot about a target. Intelligence analysts combine a range of data to obtain a clear intelligence picture, including:

Personally identifiable information, social media, digital marketplaces, web articles, vehicle records, consumer records, dark web data breaches, court case records, business directories.

2. Situational awareness: Investigators also utilize open source intelligence to improve their understanding of individual and business risk. Publicly available data can help analysts manage and address threats to operations, employees, facilities, property and supply chains. Relevant data for situational awareness may include:

Traffic cameras, real-time and historical crime data, webcam feeds, satellite imagery, geotagged social media, news alerts, major events, weather, fires and natural disasters.