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DHS Monitoring Social Media in Winter Olympics--an operational issue
February 16, 2010
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As required by law, the DHS has published a Privacy Impact Statement about its monitoring activity--in this case monitoring social media outlets for security reasons for the Vancouver Winter Olympics (of special interest to me since I live only 40 minutes from Vancouver, BC).

What most emergency manager types will find surprising is that they are doing this for operational security purposes as described in the document: The Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS), National Operations Center (NOC), has launched a 2010 Winter Olympics Social Media Event Monitoring Initiative (Initiative) to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components involved in the security, safety, and border control associated with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC). The NOC is using this vehicle to fulfill its statutory responsibility to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture for the federal government, and for those state, local, and tribal governments, as appropriate, assisting with the security, safety, and border control associated with the Olympics.

Clearly, understanding what is going on in the discussions on social networks via the internet is of importance in gaining situational awareness. And situational awareness is what the agency is required by law to provide:
The law defines the term "situational awareness" as "information gathered from a variety of sources that, when communicated to emergency managers and decision makers, can form the basis for incident management decision-making." OPS is launching this Initiative to fulfill its legal mandate to provide situational awareness and establish a common operation picture directly related to the security, safety, and border control associated with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.

As someone actively involved in developing Joint Information Center plans for major urban areas, this is of significant interest. We are beefing up Social Media monitoring sections in our JIC plans and placing them under the Assistant PIO for Information Gathering. But, how does this connect to Command? Should this section be part of the Situation Status Unit of Planning? More and more the JIC is becoming less and less about pushing out an occasional press release, but becoming an integral part of the operation of the total response.
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