There are the traditional sources: HUMINT (human intelligence), SIGINT (signal intelligence), IMINT (imagery intelligence), OSINT (open-source intelligence), and many more. Added to those sources is a sub-type of OSINT called SOCMINT (social media intelligence), which, like its name says, is based on information collected on social media. Knowing that terrorists groups use social media to convey messages, and recruit new members, it is logical that intelligence agencies have embraced sites like Twitter into their Intel arsenal. It can help them understand the “psychology” of some groups and help prevent future use of social media to recruit. Moreover, by analyzing a group’s attitude online they can glean valuable information on the capacities and the movements of this group.
The last issue with SOCMINT is a question: is it ethical? Some say social media is in the public domain, so it causes no problems. Other disagree and fear that intelligence agencies are able to watch our every move on the internet. What is sure, is that scandals like the Snowden case highlight the complexity of the question. Legislation governing the Internet is lacking, especially at the transnational level. But on that topic, Intelligence Agencies won’t complain: no rules means less boundaries.