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POV on OSINT Ethics

Protective intelligence programs are fundamental to corporate security. Their goals are to gather open-source information in a highly efficient way, add expert verification and analysis, and disseminate actionable findings in a timely manner. When you think about what goes into a well-run intelligence program, things that come to mind are using the leading AI-powered platforms to support the process of analyzing online content and the ongoing refinement of search parameters to ensure delivery of information on bonafide threats. Often, setting ethical standards for the collection and utilization of intelligence is not a primary focus.

The fast-moving concerns of protective intelligence rely on the human factor, which adds untold value in the form of analysis and decision-making on what to report, when. Without clearly established ethical guidelines that are consistently reinforced, the human element of any intelligence program may indeed become a liability.

Historically, reputable news outlets were the standard-bearer for open-source intelligence (OSINT) ethics and journalism curriculum—whether at high schools or universities—always had ethics coursework as part of a degree plan. In the past decade, corporate security has increasingly come to rely on protective intelligence programs to provide threat monitoring for key personnel and to protect brand reputation. This means there is an influx of practitioners utilizing OSINT, many of whom have no grounding in ethical considerations for the information they collect.

From the beginning, Insite’s Intelligence Group established high ethical standards and maintains ongoing vigilance to ensure our policies are followed. Taking guidance from the best journalistic practices, we believe the ethical cornerstones related to OSINT gathering are: Privacy, Intent and Education.

Our intelligence programs are designed to only collect data that is relevant for the analysis of a potential threat. This is the first step in respecting Privacy.

Related to Intent, before any inquiry begins, our intelligence analysts ask themselves 1) why am I collecting information on this subject? and 2) what is the appropriate scope of my time and research into this target?

Education is paramount to our Intelligence Group’s ability to organize the data we collect, integrate responsible, innovative technologies, and continuously update our procedures to improve threat analysis and communicate actionable intelligence to our clients.

This ethical framework guides our decision-making around fact finding and sharing information on all intelligence programs that we manage. We believe in transparency to our methods and often discuss our SOPs at Intelligence Group meetings so that our team maintains high OSINT ethical standards.

Click here to contact us for more information on Insite’s Intelligence Group, our protective intelligence programs and the ethical guidelines we use in our work. We welcome your inquiry.


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