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Former GCHQ Head Calls for Greater Social Media Surveillance

There genuinely are bad people in the world, individuals and agents who largely exist to cause serious harm to citizens around the world in democratic states. These individuals cannot, however, be permitted to destabilize an entire population nor operate as reasons for totalizing mass surveillance. In the UK an incredibly senior and prominent security and intelligence expert, Sir David Omand, has nevertheless called for the following:

In a series of recommendations to the government, Sir David – the Cabinet Office’s former Security and Intelligence co-ordinator – said out-dated legislation needed to be reformed to ensure an ethical and legal framework for such intelligence gathering, which was clear and transparent.

The report recommends that social media should be divided into two categories, the first being open source information which public bodies could monitor to improve services while not identifying individuals without permission.

On the more contentious category of monitoring private social media, Sir David said it needed to be properly authorised – including the need for warrants when it was considered “genuine intrusion” –  only used as a last resort when there was substantial cause and with regard to “collateral damage” to any innocent people who might have been in contact with a suspect.

It must repeatedly, and emphatically, be stated that ‘transparency’ in the intelligence world does not mean that citizens will actually know how collected data is used. Neither does codifying surveillance practices in law minimize citizens’ concerns around surveillance. No, it instead operates as a legal shield that protects those engaged in oft-times secretive actions that are inappropriately harmful to innocent citizens. Such changes in law must be incredibly carefully examined by the public and opposed or curtailed whenever there is even the slightest possibility of abuse or infringement of citizens’ reasonable normative expectations of privacy from state intrusion and surveillance.