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The growth of social media poses a dilemma for security and law enforcement agencies. On the one hand, social media could provide a new form of intelligence – SOCMINT – that could contribute decisively to keeping the public safe. On the other, national security is dependent on public understanding and support for the measures being taken to keep us safe.
Social media challenges current conceptions about privacy, consent and personal data, and new forms of technology allow for more invisible and widespread intrusive surveillance than ever before. Furthermore, analysis of social media for intelligence purposes does not fit easily into the policy and legal frameworks that guarantee that such activity is proportionate, necessary and accountable.
This paper is the first effort to examine the ethical, legal and operational challenges involved in using social media for intelligence and insight purposes. It argues that social media should become a permanent part of the intelligence framework but that it must be based on a publicly argued, legal footing, with clarity and transparency over use, storage, purpose, regulation and accountability. #Intelligence lays out six ethical principles that can help government agencies approach these challenges and argues for major changes to the current regulatory and legal framework in the long-term, including a review of the current Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.