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Federal law requires the National Operations Center (NOC) to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture for the entire federal government, and for state, local, and tribal governments as appropriate, and to ensure that critical disaster-related information reaches government decision makers.[1] The Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) has launched the Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative to fulfill its legal mandate to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture. In doing so, OPS is working with select components within the Department of Homeland Security to achieve this statutory mandate.

The NOC will use Internet-based platforms that provide a variety of ways to follow activity related to monitoring publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards. Through the use of publicly available search engines and content aggregators the NOC will monitor activities on select social media sites for information that the NOC can use to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture.

The NOC may also monitor those sites if they are within the scope of this Initiative. The NOC will gather, store, analyze, and disseminate relevant and appropriate de-identified information to federal, state, local, and foreign governments, and private sector partners authorized to receive situational awareness and a common operating picture.

Under this Initiative, OPS will not: 1) post any information; 2) actively seek to connect with other internal/external personal users; 3) accept other internal/external personal users' invitations to connect; or 4) interact on social media sites. However, OPS is permitted to establish user names and passwords to form profiles and follow relevant government, media, and subject matter experts on select social media sites in order to use search tools under established criteria and search terms for monitoring that supports providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture.

Furthermore, PII on the following categories of individuals may be collected when it lends credibility to the report or facilitates coordination with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, foreign, or international government partners: 1) U.S. and foreign individuals in extremis situations involving potential life or death circumstances; 2) senior U.S. and foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates; 3) U.S. and foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; 4) U.S. and foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; 5) names of anchors, newscasters, or on-scene 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; 6) current and former public officials who are victims of incidents or activities related to Homeland Security; and 7) terrorists, drug cartel leaders or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest, (e.g., mass shooters such as those at Virginia Tech or Ft. Hood) who are killed or found dead.


  1. See Section 515 of the Homeland Security Act (6 U.S.C. §321d(b)(1)).