L3.09: Closed Source Data


GEOINT Data are collected openly and covertly (secretly). Data collected covertly may be considered closed source. Some intelligence collection must remain secret as their revelation could jeopardize the individuals involved.

Closed source data is government or private data not available through open inquiry. In simple terms, it is closed source data if the data is not meant to be openly available to the public. Closed source data, because of its origin, is often considered more accurate and reliable.

Closed source data includes material that a government denotes "classified" in order to restrict public access so as to protect confidentiality, integrity, or availability. Access to government "classified data" is typically restricted by law to particular trusted individuals. An unauthorized disclosure can result in administrative or criminal penalties. A formal security clearance is often required to handle or access classified data. Classified data are typically marked with a level of sensitivity - e.g. restricted, confidential, secret, or top secret.

Closed source typically includes material such as proprietary business information, law enforcement data, educational records, banking records, and medical records. In general, closed source data are obtained or derived from sources that:

  • are marked "do not make this information available to the public;"
  • apply protective measures to ensure the information is made available only to select persons or systems, usually marked with a security classification by the source;
  • are not available on the Internet;
  • are proprietary; or
  • may include a copyright.

Proprietary describes the level of confidentiality given by the owner. The term proprietary information is often used interchangeably with the term trade secret. Generally, data termed by the owner as "proprietary" limits who can view it or know about its contents. Examples of proprietary information include:

  • Manufacturing information: vendor names, production and inventory levels, future plans, material cost, failure rates, chemical formulas, or manufacturing processes.
  • Marketing information: product-introduction plans and dates, market share and competitive position, market strategy, and customers.
  • Financial information: production and overhead costs, profit margins, sales and order volumes prior to quarterly release, budgets, quotas and targets, product sales information, and orders or projections.
  • Research and Development: technical and performance specifications, technical reports, product plans, and product code names.

There is no standard used by businesses for determining what is proprietary. The nature of what is held as proprietary varies by industry and individual business practice. If the information does not seem to be readily available, it may be considered proprietary and not for public use.

In the United States, the US Economic Espionage Act of 1996 addresses industrial espionage or commercial spying. This act imposes severe penalties for stealing trade secrets. An owner of a trade secret seeking to protect proprietary information must derive an economic value from not having this information publicly known and must take steps to maintain the secrecy of the information for any legal recourse if sensitive information is disclosed. Businesses often require employees to sign non-competition and proprietary information agreements that restrict the information employees can disclose during their employment or after leaving the company. Many businesses limit employee access to computer files, maintain secure areas where sensitive information is stored, and control visitor access.

Many countries deem the records they keep on an individual to be private. In some countries it might be a criminal offense to ask for or disclose any personal information to an unauthorized person.