It's no secret that various law enforcement and government agencies "monitor" Twitter, and sometimes to do that properly, they need to have an actual Twitter account. Apparently for Homeland Security, that Twitter account is @DHSNOCMMC1
, which (as you might imagine) is a "protected" account, so you can't see its tweets. However, Carlton Purvis noticed that this account followed a few hundred other Twitter users, and wondered who they were. Purvis filed a FOIA request
, asking for the follower list, but also for any authorized apps and widgets that DHS uses. It took a while (and many, many followups), but DHS finally sent back the list
, and it's basically just a big list of news media (CNN, Al Jazeera English, ABC, etc.) and various government and law enforcement agencies (FEMA, FDNY, Chicago Police, etc.). The response notes that "in acordance [sic] with DHS Privacy direction, DHS NOC MMC follows only authorized accounts and never follows accounts of private individuals."
Of course, Purvis notes that there are actually two (somewhat random) individuals on the list: District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. Somewhat random. But that really raises the larger question: what is DHS doing with this account, and why is it "protected" in the first place. If nothing on the list is controversial (and it doesn't seem like it), and
they're clearly not using the account to tweet out publicly, why not just leave the account "open" and just not tweet. Then people wouldn't even wonder who they're following.
In terms of apps used, they admit to using TweetDeck and TweetGrid to monitor the service, so it's likely that they've set up some searches, for which you don't have to be following any individuals directly. But it still makes you wonder how effective the whole process really is. Perhaps DHS thinks that's what it needs to do, ever since Twitter told the feds to take a hike
when it came to PRISM.