February 28, 2012 The United States Department of Homeland Security is combing through social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook looking for certain keywords you may want to refrain from when updating your status.
For instance, if you are impressed by the new timeline feature on Facebook, you might not want to refer to it as “the bomb.”
However, if you update your Facebook status with phrase such as: ”I’m finally back, my computer crashed, so I called the gang at geeksquad who determined a virus attacked my computer, and they told me to download a security patch,” that contains five keywords the Media Monitoring Capability team would likely report your personal information to Homeland Security.
“U.S. and foreign government and private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates and reporters who are known or identified as reporters in their post or article or who use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”
In January 2012, after EPIC filed a lawsuit aganst DHS for ignoring a Freedom of Information Act request, the agency disclosed the records.
The Department of Homeland Security has compiled a list of “Items Of Interest” (IOI) that may predict a terrorist threat for a private contracter to examine. The extensive list is included in nearly 300 pages of DHS documents obtained by EPIC. (PDF) Items Of Interest are general keywords that may be associated with emergency management, weather, health concerns, cyber security, international or domestic terrorism, or border security, such as Mexico.
Natt Garun, a reporter for Business Insider uses the following example of a tweet that would likely prompt a report:
“Jake is shooting a video of himself destroying a plate of uncooked pork chops in China, that’s some food extremism, his toilet is going to be a disaster afterward”
The Department also reserves the right to add additional search terms as deemed necessary.