OSINT Blog / Post

May 21, 2024

From Data to Action: OSINT's Impact on Humanitarian Challenges

The advent of the internet ushered in a hyper-connected way of life that revolutionized humanity. Our worlds got smaller as information and people from around the world became accessible with just a click or keystroke. Long-distance communications were trivialized, work became more productive, and current events began to be relayed to us with lightning speed. As luck would have it, the same digital infrastructure that updates us on friends' lives and the latest news also holds the keys to unlocking aid for those in need. 

This continuous flow of information creates digital footprints, turning routine online activities into valuable resources for those equipped to analyze them. The practice of transforming this public, digital data into actionable insights is called open-source intelligence (OSINT), and its importance cannot be overstated. OSINT has emerged as an integral tool in humanitarian efforts, empowering law enforcement, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to address crises and events that threaten public safety. Humanitarian applications for OSINT include human trafficking, missing persons, and disaster response. In this blog, we'll explore how OSINT plays a crucial role in humanitarian causes by providing a comprehensive intelligence picture, leading to better outcomes.

Combating Human Trafficking with OSINT

One of the most high-stakes arenas where OSINT has proved its value is in the battle against human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are often lured by false promises—jobs, education, a better life—only to find themselves trapped in cycles of abuse. Traffickers hide behind the anonymity of the internet and the complexities of international law to complicate efforts to trace and dismantle their operations. Given these challenges, OSINT helps fight human trafficking by enabling investigators and analysts to:

Identify Trafficking Patterns: Traffickers commonly recruit victims via social media, online forums, and classified ad websites. OSINT can reveal these patterns by analyzing the language and imagery in posts, tracing the digital footprints of suspected traffickers.

Understand Trafficking Networks: Solutions like Skopenow's Link Analysis allow investigators to map relationships between suspects and uncover common data points that help substantiate organized crime groups.

The Search for Missing Persons

The initial hours following a person's disappearance are the most critical. Unfortunately, information about the missing person's last known activities and location is often scarce or delayed. Law enforcement and search teams must overcome this obstacle with both sensitivity and urgency, as they're frequently under considerable pressure from the public and the victim's family. OSINT assists investigators in their search through:

Social Media Analysis: Investigators examine the missing person's social media profiles, potentially gleaning insights into recent activities or emotional state. This can yield significant clues and guide law enforcement to allocate resources more efficiently.

Public Records and Online Databases: Investigators can also tap into key data related to a missing person with solutions like Workbench, gathering background information on relevant vehicles, phone numbers, business associations, and more.

This strategic use of OSINT extends beyond individual crises, proving equally pivotal in the chaotic aftermath of large-scale disasters. The methodologies that help locate a missing person or investigate trafficking networks can be applied to coordinating aid and mapping an incident's impact.

OSINT's Impact on Disaster Response

Disasters can severely disrupt traditional communication channels, making it difficult to assess situations, identify the needs of affected populations, and coordinate relief efforts. OSINT is an essential tool in overcoming these barriers because it can glean information even from scattered, decentralized reports, offering ways to enhance disaster response through:

Real-Time Situational Awareness: Social media, online news, and forums have become vital sources of real-time information during disasters. Analysts can gather, filter, and analyze this data to provide actionable intelligence for prioritizing response efforts and deploying resources effectively.

Mapping and Geospatial Analysis: Near real-time satellite imagery from situational awareness solutions like Grid can help responders confidently develop a comprehensive impression of the affected areas, identifying blocked roads, flooding, or collapsed buildings.

Victim Identification and Needs Assessment: OSINT can help locate individual victims and help understand the population's immediate requirements, such as medical services, food, water, or shelter.

The increasing scale and complexity of humanitarian challenges demand that response strategies evolve to match. In these high-stakes environments, the capacity to act quickly and decisively can save lives and restore communities. Integrating automation and artificial intelligence into OSINT workflows has become essential for speeding up and refining these emergency responses.

Empowering Change with Skopenow

Augmenting OSINT with AI equips organizations with precise, real-time intelligence on emerging threats and incidents, providing an efficient and dynamic way to process publicly available information and directly address urgent needs by filtering out irrelevant data.

Skopenow delivers actionable insights and comprehensive intelligence to support law enforcement, government initiatives, and humanitarian missions. Our platform automatically collects and analyzes public data from across the internet to help investigators make more informed decisions and safeguard communities from potential harm. By automating the most cumbersome parts of the investigative workflow, Skopenow ensures the discovery of evidence that can lead to significant breakthroughs in difficult cases.

Join over 1,500 organizations, including numerous government and law enforcement agencies, that rely on Skopenow to make better decisions faster. To explore the transformative potential of Skopenow to expedite critical life-saving missions, schedule a personalized demo today at www.skopenow.com/try.