The Importance and Benefits of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) in Geopolitical Assessments

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Analyst
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan and Kareem, Hawaii National Guard Counterdrug Program criminal analysts, check out the morning’s headlines as part of their Open Source intelligence search at the Hawaii High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area headquarters in Honolulu (Credits: Tech. Sgt. Betty Squatrito-Martin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 30 Issue 6
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a crucial aspect of modern-day geopolitics because it provides timely and accurate information to inform decision-making processes. By leveraging various open sources such as social media, news outlets, and other publicly available data, intelligence agencies can detect emerging trends and patterns in all aspects of life, including political, economic, social and technological domains.

This information allows nations to be more proactive in their foreign policy strategies by anticipating global conflicts or geopolitical shifts. Through OSINT analysis, countries can identify previously unknown global threats and opportunities while understanding various cultural nuances in different parts of the world.

OSINT thus serves as an indispensable tool for assisting policymakers in making informed decisions about international matters ranging from defence strategy to economic cooperation with other nations.

OSINT, geopolitics, and geopolitical risk: definitions

Geopolitics studies the political and economic relationships between nations, influenced by geographical factors such as natural resources, climate, terrain and borders. More specifically, it examines how nations interact with each other on a global scale through diplomacy, trade agreements, military alliances and conflicts.

Geopolitical considerations have been crucial in shaping world history throughout human civilisation. Understanding geopolitics can be vital to assessing global risks for businesses, investors or NGOs in any country or region. Deep knowledge of geopolitics allows individuals and organisations to make informed decisions based on an appreciation of underlying historical trends while anticipating future developments likely to impact one another’s interests.

Geopolitical risk refers to the uncertainty and instability stemming from conflicts, terrorism or tension between nations. Such risks can significantly impact global markets, affecting the stability of international economies and financial systems. These risks are not limited to emerging economies or developing countries; even developed nations can be exposed to geopolitical risk.

For example, factors such as trade wars, major elections or regime changes in key countries can adversely impact global supply chains and create market volatility. Companies that operate internationally must be cognisant of these risks when making investment decisions or conducting business in foreign markets.

In order to navigate these uncertainties successfully, businesses must craft comprehensive strategies that account for both current conditions and any potential disruptions that could arise in the future. Ultimately, understanding geopolitical risk is vital for all who seek to thrive in today’s dynamic international landscape.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is utilising publicly available information to gather intelligence about individuals, groups, organisations and countries. In today’s digital world, where an overwhelming amount of data is generated daily and social media has become a primary communication medium, OSINT has become an essential tool for professionals in various fields, such as law enforcement, military, corporate security, and investigative journalism.

By leveraging open sources such as social media platforms, online forums, news articles and blogs, OSINT can provide valuable insights into a target’s activities and behaviour patterns. However, it also requires skilled analysts with expertise in data mining techniques and critical thinking abilities to assess this data’s reliability and relevance accurately. Furthermore, protecting personal privacy remains equally important while gathering information through Open source Intelligence. Therefore, OSINT remains one of the most effective methods for gathering human intelligence by tapping into publicly available information.

Publicly available information (PAI) is information that is available to the public. This information can be found online, in newspapers, on social media, and elsewhere. PAI is essential because it can provide insights not available through classified sources.

Why is OSINT Important?

Geopolitics evolve rapidly, and government agencies must keep up with new developments. However, in some situations, secret sources are scares or extremely difficult or expensive to obtain, and it can be difficult for analysts to process and analyse all of the data efficiently. This is where Open Source Intelligence comes in. OSINT provides immense value for intelligence applications like assessing geopolitics.

Governments must understand strategic environments, anticipate potential threats, and support ongoing and planned operations in these regions. Without accurate, timely information, decision-makers could jeopardise national interests, physical assets, and public safety.

OSINT tools include software that helps analysts collect, process, and analyse open-source data more efficiently. As noted by the company Flashpoint, by prioritising the following features, intelligence leaders can procure solutions that address common challenges and improve the accuracy and timeliness of geopolitical assessments:

  1. Real-Time Data. To ensure timely delivery, OSINT tools must collect and display data in real-time (or as close to real-time as possible).
  2. Regional Data Coverage. If an analyst is assigned to a specific area, OSINT has immense value. Social media, news, and fringe networks utilised in a target area can illuminate public sentiment, on-the-ground activities, and media manipulation more accurately than sources external to the region. However, this insight is easily overlooked by analysts who are unfamiliar with regional information sources.
  3. Software Usability. Analysts are more likely to recommend tools based on their usability over their perceived usefulness. Some commercial intelligence products are powerful but have steep learning curves.

OSINT tools have become essential in geopolitics as they enable analysts to gather critical information from publicly available sources. These digital resources can provide valuable insights on various topics, including worldwide political developments, economic trends, and security threats.

The correct use of OSINT tools has helped intelligence agencies identify potential risks and vulnerabilities that may impact national security, foreign policy, and international relations. With such powerful data analysis capabilities, analysts can now examine vast amounts of unstructured data from various sources in real-time.

At the same time, it is also essential that these tools are used responsibly, respecting privacy laws and ensuring accuracy before presenting conclusions that could shape policy or public opinion. Therefore, professional training is crucial for those who want to utilise OSINT tools for geopolitics research successfully.

SpecialEurasia has created its 1-to-1 training course in Open Source Intelligence, Geopolitical Intelligence, and Terrorism Analysis to teach and guide the participant in combining Intelligence analysis methodologies, fundamentals of geopolitics, and OSINT tools to provide reports, geopolitical forecasting, and political risk analysis for decision-making. 

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