Saturday, November 12, 2011

The 'Google Effect' on spying?

I was amused to read that there's something called the 'Google Effect' in spying (as distinct from the same expression in general usage). The Telegraph reports:

The rise of the web and Google means Britain’s spies have to work harder to produce genuinely secret intelligence, according to Sir David Pepper, the former director of GCHQ.

He said “the Google effect” of so much information being readily available online had “very substantially” raised the “threshold for producing intelligence” for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

“Nobody wants the easy stuff anymore and there is no point spending effort and money collecting it,” said Sir David, who was giving the annual Mountbatten Memorial Lecture at the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

“Many of the sort of things for which [officials] once would have turned to the intelligence agencies are now readily available to them online,” he said.

“Thanks to Google Maps and Streetview anyone can today see photographic detail of far away countries which hitherto would have been available only through secret and highly sophisticated national satellites.

“Intelligence producers have had to become very sensitive to this phenomenon and very careful not to put effort into producing intelligence that purports to be secret which is in fact not secret at all.”

. . .

Sir David Pepper also said “the Google effect” meant that officials who use secret intelligence were demanding it quicker than ever before.

“If the intelligence readers are used to getting information online very fast they’re going to expect the intelligence agencies to be able to do much the same thing,” he said.

There's more at the link.

I'm intrigued by a passing thought. If, as the article suggests, intelligence agencies are now using methods similar to Google's to classify, sort and categorize the information they collect, how long can it be before all their carefully-assembled information is 'crawled' by an itinerant Googlebot and disseminated for all to see? That might be embarrassing, to say the least . . .


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