The world now has access to a list of words and phrases that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses to monitor social networks and news article comments for terrorism and general threats against the country.
The list was part of a 39-page “2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder” document that was released due to a Freedom of Information Act request by privacy watchdog organization Electronic Privacy Information Center. The list contains references to all the related governmental agencies, obvious references to threats (attack, nuclear threat, etc.) and then some pretty generic words like pork, cloud, electric, port, dock, and many others.
The overall report is interesting because it sheds some light on how these security agencies are trained to track potential threats online, but it does raise more than a few questions. For instance, why is Homeland Security tracking many vague terms, and what do they do with this information once its been identified as a possible threat?
The department claims that the practice is simply to monitor activity and not to track anti-U.S. comments made by individuals — a practice currently employed by the governments of Iran and Syria.
The FBI is also getting into the business of crawling social media sites for possible threats against the country with a new tool, as VentureBeat reported back in January.
We’ve embedded the Homeland Security Department’s document below for further inspection. Let us know what you think in the comments.