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List reveals keywords feds monitor on Facebook, Twitter

Have you ever wondered if the government — or more specifically, the Department of Homeland Security — is monitoring your Twitter or Facebook posts? If the answer's "yes," give yourself a pat on the back because you're right and not simply paranoid. There's even a list of keywords for which subcontractors hired by the DHS check social networks.

Joel Johnson of Animal was among the first to notice that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents which explain the "items of interest" (IOI) for which the agency monitors social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Technically this monitoring is not done by the DHS, but subcontractors who are specifically hired to "monitor social networks–use to generate real-time IOI reports," of course. Internal policies demand that those reports are stripped of most personally identifiable information (PII), though there are plenty of exceptions such as status updates or tweets involving "potential life or death circumstances" or public statements by U.S. or foreign government officials.

So what sort of words and phrases are the DHS subcontractors looking for while monitoring social media sites?

They're looking for mentions of words and phrases related to government agencies ("Department of Homeland Security," "Homeland Defense," "agent," "task force," air marshal"), domestic security ("assassination," "attack," "cops," dirty bomb," "shooting"), hazardous materials ("hazmat," "nuclear," "chemical spill," "leak") and health concerns ("flu," "ebola," "contamination," "virus," "small pox"). 

Also on the list of IOI are terms related to infrastructure security ("airport," "subway," "critial infrastructure," "transportation security"), Southwest border violence ("drug cartel," "drug," "gang," "decapitated"), terrorism ("Pakistan," "target," "weapons grade," "biological weapon," "Taliban," "suicide attack"), emergency situations ("hurricane," "extreme weather," "brush fire," "power outage," "blizzard"), and cyber security ("malware," "virus," "trojan," "phreaking," scammers").

The words listed above are just some of the IOI-related keywords listed in the documents obtained by EPIC. You can check out the full list on Animal, where Joel Johnson has compiled all the relevant terms.

Just try to avoid laughing when you notice that yes, "the Department of Homeland Security is searching social media for … "social media.""

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