On the heels of revelations about National Security Agency spying, it turns out the Department of Homeland Security has its own way of keeping tabs on the American public via social media.
New documents show DHS's National Operation Center has been using Twitter to monitor the public and 337 accounts of interest.
No tweets have been posted from the account, @DHSNOCMMC1, and it does not appear to accept follow requests. The Twitter accounts DHS follows remained private until Freedom of Information Act documents revealing the accounts were posted by government transparency group MuckRock Wednesday.
Among the accounts it follows are a mix of news organizations, police and fire departments, emergency management agencies and utility companies. The only individuals followed are District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.
In 2012, the Daily Mail revealed a list of keywords being tracked by the DHS on social media, including "Mexico," "nuclear," "flu," and "pork." Twitter applications TweetDeck and TweetGrid were used to monitor tweets according to the MuckRock documents. Over a six-month period the National Operations Center generated more than 9,300 "item-of-interest" reports from its social media monitoring program, according to California Watch.
"The Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center employs social media monitoring for situational awareness purposes only, within the clearly defined parameters articulated in our Privacy Impact Assessment, to ensure that critical information reaches appropriate decision-makers," said DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard in a statement emailed to Whispers.
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Updated 7/18/2013: This story has been updated to include DHS comments.