Bell, Book and Candle
Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is intelligence collected from publicly available sources. In the intelligence community (IC), the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources).
OSINT includes a wide variety of information and sources:
Media: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and computer-based information.
Web-based communities and user-generated content: social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies.
Public data: government reports, official data such as budgets, demographics, hearings, legislative debates, press conferences, speeches, marine and aeronautical safety warnings, environmental impact statements and contract awards.
Observation and reporting: amateur airplane spotters, radio monitors and satellite observers among many others have provided significant information not otherwise available. The availability of worldwide satellite photography, often of high resolution, on the Web (e.g., Google Earth) has expanded open-source capabilities into areas formerly available only to major intelligence services.
Professional and academic (or grey literature): conferences, symposia, professional associations, academic papers, and subject matter experts.2
Most information has geospatial dimensions, but many often overlook the geospatial side of OSINT: not all open-source data is unstructured text. Examples of geospatial open source include hard and softcopy maps, atlases, gazetteers, port plans, gravity data, aeronautical data, navigation data, geodetic data, human terrain data (cultural and economic), environmental data, commercial imagery, LIDAR, hyper and multi-spectral data, airborne imagery, geo-names, geo-features, urban terrain, vertical obstruction data, boundary marker data, geospatial mashups, spatial databases, and web services. Most of the geospatial data mentioned above is integrated, analyzed, and syndicated using geospatial software like a Geographic Information System (GIS) not a browser per se.
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.