Don’t say ‘flu’ or ‘subway’ online if you want to avoid Homeland Security


A freedom of information request has given some unique insight into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The list of words used by the department to monitor online activity for signs of terrorism or threats against the U.S. has been made publicly available. There are plenty of words on the list that you would expect to see there, like "Al Qaida" and "dirty bomb," but it's the inclusion of seemingly mundane terms like "bacteria" and "Mexico" that has piqued the interest of some.

A 39-page PDF document called "Analyst's Desktop Binder" that highlights all the words Homeland Security watches for in online usage is now available online for perusal, The Daily Mail reports. Department chiefs insist the list is not intended to look for general negative remarks about the government, but it serves as a tool to make them aware of potential threats against the country.

The list was requested, obtained and posted by a privacy watchdog called the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who sued in order to get access to the documents. They have described the list as 'broad, vague and ambiguous,' according to The Daily Mail.

It seems the agency does agree that the list is in need of updating. Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler told Huffington Post in February that the list is now under review to ensure it can "clearly and accurately convey the parameters and intention of the program."

As Forbes highlights, another interesting insight offered in the document is just how Homeland Security monitors those keywords. The "Analyst's Desktop Binder" indicates that the list words are watched through TweetDeck, and their information is kept on a Mac Mini. There is no indication whether this has changed since the document's release.

Here's the full list of words:

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