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The use of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is often seen in a negative light.  Many connect OSINT to spying by law enforcement agencies and governments, as well as unwelcome intrusion by commercial business, organisations and individuals intent on profit, personal gain or gratification to the extent that the vulnerable or unwary are compromised. However, when responsibly used, OSINT can be a force for good in the hands of the right people.  This article will highlight two positive aspects of the appropriate and lawful use of OSINT. 

This article also argues against the current trend which promotes the idea that ‘negativity’ sells. A cursory look at Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen’s testimony at the US senate suggests that Facebook may have used negative algorithms and put profit above safety (1).  

Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen | Matt McClain-Pool/Getty Images

Consider Squid Game, the number one program currently showing on Netflix, which although it is full of violence and murder may well become the Netflix number one best seller of all time! Some schools are now warning parents that their children could be playing Squid Game in the playground, with the losers being beaten up! (2). It seems that as a species we prefer to watch, listen or read about negative stories.

To challenge the trend of negativity, this article identifies two of the many positive ways that the responsible use of OSINT can help make this world a safer place.

1. Children’s safety online: There are many OSINT practitioners working tirelessly to protect the safety of children online. One example is the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (, a ‘not for profit’ organisation that is dedicated to eliminating child sexual abuse imagery online.  The foundation works closely with Governments, NGO’s and law enforcement agencies across the world and uses open-source intelligence as part of their online investigations.  Their staff search the internet for child sexual abuse imagery or videos and work hard to get such imagery removed as soon as possible.  This video explains their work in more detail.

If further proof is required, read their annual report:

If you are a parent, I would seriously recommend that you check the advice on how to keep your children safe online at

2. Locating missing people: Most of us can only imagine the trauma of living with the knowledge that someone you love is missing and you don’t know what has happened to them. Locate International ( is a community interest company dedicated to helping families, free of charge, to find their missing loved ones. Using Open-Source Intelligence, a team of specialists and volunteers investigate and review missing person cases.  Their service is carried out at no cost to the families.  They are always looking for OSINT volunteers to assist them in their work.  A podcast that describes a number of their cases can be found at the following link:

These are only two examples of how open-source intelligence can be utilised in a positive way.  There is no doubt that unresponsible use of open-source intelligence can be damaging and intrusive, but these examples show that that there are clear cases where we should actively support organisations who employ OSINT practitioners and use their skills for the greater good of society.

Yvonne Davidson

About the author

Yvonne Davidson

Retired Senior Police Officer and an Associate Tutor at Ulster University working as part of a collaborative partnership between the Kapsuun Group and Ulster University.

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