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Opinion: Indian Media Should be Careful When Using OSINT in Reports

A social entrepreneur in India said in a recent column that the media in the country has been the biggest beneficiary of open-source intelligence but the industry need to be reasonable and responsible in handling gathered information, particularly those from anonymous sources.

According to Anand Sankar, OSINT is the process of monitoring data on platforms that can be legally accessed by the public without breaching the privacy of sources and therefore, the media should determine if the information they are about to disclose was obtained in a legal and ethical way.

OSINT should be based on data that is publicly available or data that has been legally shared or purchased, Sankar said in an opinion piece Newslaundry published.

Sankar said OSINT has played a major role in the conversation around military events in India, including the ongoing crisis on the Line of Actual Control with China.

However, many anonymous sources claim that they have access to proprietary commercial satellite imagery owned by imaging companies and it is unclear how they got access to these copyrighted images.

The media could also unintentionally advertise a commercial satellite imaging company by using the images that have watermarks or annotations advertising the source.

Another concern is using the interpretations or annotations made by self-styled experts or anonymous sources that do not comply with the law.

For instance, the media in India cannot use a satellite image that has been manipulated to show a border or some line because it violates a law that states only the government gets to draw the borders of the country, Sankar explained.

He also stated that information warfare between China and India could hinder the dissemination of open-source information.

Unlike China, India is a democratic country with an independent press and it is imperative that media outlets ensure that their OSINT-based reports are not manipulated by the adversary.

Sankar also noted the effects of media reporting on public opinion, which may ultimately have repercussions on governmental decision-making.