Golden age of James Bond like intelligence agencies has come to an end. You don’t have to send your secret agents to gather intel, you do that through Google and Facebook. You want to have a switch in some suspicious company or foreign government agency? Friend with them on Facebook or other social network. Want to know what is going on in certain industry facilities? Observe geo-localized twitter stream. Double O’s were sent to acquire information and act. Nowadays there is no problem with information, the problem is with filtering and picking up the right one.
Old school James Bond had to acquire information about certain persons, buildings or vehicles. Firstly he would meet suitable person, with whom he had access to desired objects, that was possible only in real life. Secondly he had to localize the object. Then obtain technical specifications of the surveillance building or vehicle. After all that, he needed to make photos of this secret project, and send them back physically(there was no Internet!) to the HQ. Everything done on the site. Now today we can find necessary persons online, all the facilities and companies are also in the Internet. Usually you can see them on Google Earth. Further data? Some hacking, cracking online socializing with necessary personnel, all done from your HQ.
But CIA isn’t gathering data, it’s also using it against foreign regimes. Agencies used to sustain agent networks, in various regimes around the world for many tasks, but also in case of revolution times. The agencies would like to have an influence on events, that could led to change of power, through the work of their agents on the ground.
Now there’s a thought: is this done the same way today on social networks? CIA or other agencies workers suddenly start to influence important social groups through social media, during demonstrations? Are those social networks just an infrastructure for the western intelligence agencies, or do they allow these agencies a more broad use of their services? Pretty scary vision, considering todays fight for the free Internet.
The amount of data isn’t getting smaller. When it comes to people it’s more and more. You can know a lot about a person without meeting them in the real life. Current and past jobs, hobbies and interests, friends, relationships, beliefs, education, political sympathies, places they go, etc. Facebook new Timeline feature is like a great spying tool made available for everyone.
Social network & hardware companies, soon will know much more thanks to voice control apps. The interesting part is do those companies share this data with the governments? Google sometimes doesn’t and I like that. I would certainly want that in a few years, when mind-reading computers will take off and use that data. Don’t forget that some of these companies are as powerful as the governments or even stronger. They won’t give away our data so easily. On the other hand officials, can harden their life a lot.
The problem todays agencies have is the amount of data: it’s just too damn big. Finding the right and reliable source is very hard in vast ocean of information on the Internet. Before 9-11 several US intelligence sources were alarming about terrorist attack threat. But the info wasn’t picked up by the right personnel. The data is somewhere out there, they just don’t have enough computing power, or people to search it and put it in the right order.