Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is data collected from publicly available sources to be used in an intelligence context. In the intelligence community, the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources). It is not related to open-source software or public intelligence.
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is the collection and analysis of information that is gathered from public, or open, sources. OSINT is primarily used in national security, law enforcement, and business intelligence functions and is of value to analysts who use non-sensitive intelligence in answering classified, unclassified, or proprietary intelligence requirements across the previous intelligence disciplines.
OSINT sources can be divided up into six different categories of information flow:
- Media:, print newspapers, magazines, radio, and television from across and between countries.
- Internet, online publications, blogs, discussion groups, citizen media (i.e. – cell phone videos, and user created content), YouTube, and other social media websites (i.e. – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). This source also outpaces a variety of other sources due to its timeliness and is easily accessible.
- Public Government Data, public government reports, budgets, hearings, telephone directories, press conferences, websites, and speeches. Although this source comes from an official source they are publicly accessible and may be used openly and freely.
- Professional and Academic Publications, information acquired from journals, conferences, symposia, academic papers, dissertations, and theses.
- Commercial Data, commercial imagery, financial and industrial assessments, and databases.
- Grey Literature, technical reports, preprints, patents, working papers, business documents, unpublished works, dissertations, and newsletters.
OSINT is distinguished from research in that it applies the process of intelligence to create tailored knowledge supportive of a specific decision by a specific individual or group.