Analysis: Agency social media monitoring about good government, not Big Brother

Friday - 3/2/2012, 6:13pm EST

Richard Hartman, COO, OhMyGov Inc.

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Officials at the Homeland Security Department found themselves in the hot seat last month when it was revealed the agency was monitoring social networks, such as Twitter.

But Richard Hartman, the chief operating officer of OhMyGov Inc., which provides social media consulting to federal agencies and other clients, said Congress got it wrong. Lawmakers shouldn't have asked why DHS monitors social media networks, but why so few other agencies do not.

In a commentary for The Hill newspaper, Hartman said social media tracking isn't as nefarious as it seems and, in particular, serves three beneficial purposes:

  • Improves situational awareness and aids in responding to emergencies.

  • Can help identify disease patterns across geographic areas. Hartman cited the use of Twitter by Harvard Medical School to track a cholera epidemic.

  • Public complaints and appraisals can serve as informal program evaluations.

Hartman joined In Depth with Francis Rose to discuss why social media monitoring is actually critical to many agency functions.

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