Obama Admin Okays Monitoring of Reporters? No, No, Says Homeland Security Flack

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The web is abuzz today with reports that the Department of Homeland Security has approved collecting of personal information from television anchors, news reporters, bloggers, and anyone else who uses social media.

The so-called Media Monitoring Initiative allows the government to keep data on people who use "traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed." The program is housed in the DHS National Operations Center.

"The new provisions in the NOC's write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency," according to a writeup on the website, rt.com.

The article goes on to say that government officials and private sector employees, who make public statements, also can be monitored. Fast Company is reporting that the monitoring has been happening since 2010.

DHS spokesman Matt Chandler tells the Voice that the agency uses 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."

A government official explained, for example, that after the earthquake in Haiti, monitoring of social media allowed DHS folks to guide rescue crews to someone who was tweeting while trapped under rubble. Moreover, the program would be used only in times of crisis, and is required by Congress.

By the way, "situational awareness" basically means knowing what's going on so you can make quick decisions.


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