Need Information? Open Source Intelligence vs. Private Data

Need Information? Open Source Intelligence vs. Private Data

If data from Credit Report Companies, the Department of Motor Vehicle, Utility Bills, and others, were available to the public, would celebrities, athletes, politicians, police officers, to name a few, ever have peace? Out of 350 million people in the US, probably not, there would likely be a few fans or detractors that might make things difficult for some of them.

Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is public information. Much of this data is available via internet research, social media, the library, etc., it is basically anything the public can access. Private data from sources like the Department of Motor Vehicles, Credit Report Information, Utility Bill Information, and others, can be obtained by Investigators, both Private and Government. These sources require agreements and licensure, they are not available to the citizenry writ large, and that is a good thing. Social Security numbers, drivers license information, places of employment, etc., are private and confidential, thus these databases are available, for a fee, to those that qualify for access.

OSINT is defined in the United States of America by Public Law 109-163 as intelligence "produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement." NATO states that OSINT is intelligence "derived from publicly available information, as well as other unclassified information that has limited public distribution or access."

PI's can provide information derived from Private, Confidential, and Protected intelligence. When accessing private information, a subscriber to private/condfiential information databases must have a valid reason, but PI's do have access, unlike the public:

These sources require licenses and other agreements before gaining access to third party databases.

Wrapping It Up:

In short, anyone can access OSINT if they know how, as it is publicly available. It is a process that applies to taking information and tailoring it to a particular need, and in the case of PI’s, it's usually a Background Investigation.
When solving a problem or answering questions is paramount, it is likely vital to have both OSINT and Private Information discovered, and thus the need for an industry tailored to that end. If data becomes the Wild West, and anyone can hack and gain access to anything, cyber bullying and harassment could likely be an even greater problem than it already is.

While we can access data that is not open to the public, there are, for legitimate reasons, restrictions that prevent us from taking on certain cases. We are unable to conduct research on celebrities simply because a fan is curious. What we can do is conduct through research and deep dive into a persons background for legitimate and legal reasons. 

As we discussed in the above, OSINT is fair game, as it is open to the public, so if there is information online about a celebrity, that is fair game. However, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and so many more (HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, ECPA, COPPA, and VPPA) are constructed to protect information from being accessed for nefarious investigations.

Check out this week's Video on OSINT vs. Private Data below:

Still Curious? Check Out Our Other Blogs:

Googling Yourself and Your Internet Reputation

What is Mobile Forensics?

Social Media Background Investigations


Back to blog