Home > Twitter > I’m a Twit(terer) but did you know that the L.A. Fire Department is, too?

I’m a Twit(terer) but did you know that the L.A. Fire Department is, too?

If you look over to the right under the Lijit widget, you’ll see that I use Twitter.  It’s addictive.  At first I thought it was stupid.  Now I’m having simplex "conversations" with myself and others(?) that are strangely satisfying.

If you don’t happen to know what Twitter is, it’s basically a "micro-blogging" (ugh) social-networking site.  Read more about it here.

If you were so inclined, you can feel free to bore yourself to tears by tapping into the ever-exciting neartime log of my activities — only to discover that all I do is eat and sit in airports.  Thrilling.

However, as I was browsing the Twitter site today, I found that the L.A. Fire Department actually logs (all?) its calls to Twitter — it’s the web-based version of sitting in front of a scanner and listening to dispatch.  They also maintain a blog.  Imagine if the LAPD did the same…now that would be "fun."

Scoble covered this back in July and unfortunately I didn’t happen to see it at the time. 

This got me thinking about not only how interesting this is to those whose hobby in the analog world is following the LAFD’s actions and this obviously unique particular application for information dispersal and broadcast of information from and to these first responders as an alert/emergency service, but also that of potential applications in the DoD space.

I’m readying another post regarding some of the impacts that Web2.x and various collaboration and interactive technologies have had on the modern warfighter, but thus really struck me as interesting. 

With some of the various visualization tools coming to bear (Twitter is introducing one) one could take human-generated as well as automated feeds of unstructured, yet contextual theater updates (in addition to more structured data such as engagement, position, movement, number, etc.) and parse/visualize activity over time to arrive at some very interesting data points.  More on that later, but noddle on it.

Back to the LAFD’s Twitter and why I’m bringing this up on my "security" blog…while it appears that these logs are public record, check out the information you can glean from these entries — they appear to be unparsed.  Is anyone else concerned by the privacy implications of including personal information as part of these feeds…esp. when paired with the types of activities profiled in the abstracts?


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  1. August 31st, 2007 at 00:26 | #1

    Mr. Hoff,
    Thanks for your mention of the Los Angeles Fire Department's use of Twitter. We appreciate your interest in our agency and its endeavors.
    Since you asked… please know that only a small fraction of our Department's 2,000+ daily responses are posted to our Twitter and LAFD_ALERT feed.
    In accordance with relevant statutes, none of the information we share provides personally identifying information. Like a miscreant who would physically follow an ambulance to someone's home and then stand in the public street with binoculars, there is the possibility that a person or persons could combine (with effort) our generic information with separate and acquired knowledge to surmise greater detail about the work we do.
    To that end, we do take reasonable efforts to protect those we proudly serve, including our citing accidents and disasters to educate the community as a whole, in the hope of preventing similar occurrences in the future.
    Again, thanks for your interest in the Los Angeles Fire Department. Please let us know when your travels might bring you to Los Angeles. There's always room for you at the firehouse kitchen table, and a warm cup of coffee with your name on it.
    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,
    Brian Humphrey
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

  2. August 31st, 2007 at 01:24 | #2

    Wow, free coffee in LA. NOW I see the value in blogging. 😉
    Still don't get Twitter though. I canned my account last month after a search for "Rob Newby" on Google (what do you mean you've never tried it?) brought up "falling asleep at my desk" in the top 10.
    None too professional.

  3. August 31st, 2007 at 05:00 | #3

    Wow, Brian…Thanks! You're one blog-scouring attentive PSO! 😉
    I lived in L.A. for almost 13 years prior to moving East 2 years ago and must suggest that it is I who will be supplying you and the brave men and women who serve the community that cup of coffee!
    Thanks very much for the feedback about what goes into the Twitter log. I maintain that it's a very, very cool idea, as is the fact that you are paying attention to these concerns.
    @Rob… I have no response to that 😉 HA!

  4. August 31st, 2007 at 10:39 | #4

    Sounds like a new phrase: "On the Interwebblagosphere, we all know that Rob Newby is asleep at his desk."

  5. August 31st, 2007 at 12:34 | #5

    I thought that was Newton's 4th law…
    Something tells me that this will have an equal and opposite reaction 😉

  6. September 1st, 2007 at 12:29 | #6

    Do you think if I re-open my account and type in "security expert" everyday, I might get more respect amongst my peers?
    No, thought not. 🙂

  7. September 1st, 2007 at 13:55 | #7

    Was that really a question?
    Lovin' you!

  8. September 1st, 2007 at 15:14 | #8

    The respect is mutual.
    The love is reward in itself.

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