The McAfee Institute defines Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) as information that is discovered through publicly available means & determined to be of intelligence value. We expand on that for members of the Intelligence Community (IC), to also include being disseminated by a member of the IC as stated within Section 931 of Public Law 109-163, which states that OSINT is the “intelligence that is produced from publicly available information and is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.” Open Source Information (OSIF) is merely unclassified data available to the public, while OSINT results from applying, processing, and exploiting the information to validate it as relevant, accurate, and actionable for use by the consumers.

Open-source data (OSD) is described as a raw print, broadcast, oral debriefing, or other forms of information from a primary source.

Open-source information (OSIF) is the data that is derived from generic information such as books, newspapers, broadcasts, etc. that are largely disseminated around the world.

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is described as information that has been “deliberated, discovered, discriminated, distilled, and disseminated to a select audience.”

We propose the following additional classifications:

  • Open-source data is information that would be of little individual value in isolation but is of intelligence value in the final compilation of the information. For example, a single Facebook post on the way a person views the president is almost of no value. However, if you analyze all of the Facebook posts within a certain country, it could be of great intelligence value.
    Open-source data includes public material that is not explicitly published but is still publicly or commercially available, such as commercial satellite imagery.
  • Open-source information is material that can be lawfully obtained through request, purchase, or observation by a member of the public. This includes open-source data but also includes material of more substantive content. OSIF is, therefore, the most expansive category of publicly or commercially available information.


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