Google's Next Victim? British Intelligence Services

from the killing-industries-before-killing-industries-was-cool dept

Google is at it again. Not content to singlehandedly destroy the motion picture, music, news and road map industries, Google's all-seeing eye, combined with its search engine, is now threatening the livelihoods of British intelligence agents, who will now be expected to tell their superiors "something they don't already know."

According to Sir David Pepper, former director of the UK Goverment Communications Headquarter, the "Google effect" of having so much information available online has "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 Streeview 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."
Now, not only is it going to be tougher for spies to outspy Google, but results will now be expected to compete with Google's famous fractions of a second.
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.
It's not all bad news, however. The "Google effect" can also be used for good, rather than just as a tool to put industries out of business.
But online information was offering opportunities as well as challenges to those in the espionage trade, Sir David said. "You can find out a lot about potential spies without ever meeting them, simply by looking at their online footprints,"* he said.
*(Henceforth referred to as the "Facebook effect.")


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 5:34am

    Most intelligence gathering decades ago was just obtaining public source information, like Pravda for example. Now Google is doing the job much quicker.

    He does sound silly though.

     

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      Call me Al, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 7:20am

      Re:

      "He does sound silly though."

      I think he's just commenting on the way things are changing. Pointing out how much easier it is to get the basic information then previously. I wouldn't call it silly as such.

      Of course it does raise the question of why we have so many Spooks at GCHQ if so many of them are largely redundant due to improvements of technology.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 5:35am

    Google Maps and Streetview hardly produces up-to-date content most of the time, and good luck getting Streetview of anything other than the absolute major roads in non-North American areas, or any roads at all in Asia or Africa. If any intelligence services are honestly complaining that Google is outdoing them, it says a lot about how incompetent those agencies are.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Talking about victims how about Facebook bug that allows anyone who denounce someone to view other photos to see if there is more inappropriate content?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16067383

    That led to 14 private photos of Mr. Zuckberg to be posted online by others calling attention to the issue.

    But what interests me on the story is that the code was pushed to make it easier to denounce somebody and it shows what happens when you try to automate such things, people loose their privacy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Google makes us have to actually work, we can't have that!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 6:42am

    The good ol days...

    I remember back when a guy would have to seduce an enemy agent, infiltrate a foreign embassy, and kill a underling wielding an exotic weapon, just to find out what kind of vodka the premier likes.

     

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      MrWilson, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 8:27am

      Re: The good ol days...

      Now that the Cold War is over and capitalist greed has been instituted, the Premier is the spokesperson for his favorite brand of vodka.

       

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    Pixelation, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 7:54am

    Anyone else...

    Anyone else wonder if Sir Pepper is a Sergeant?

     

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    The eejit (profile), Dec 7th, 2011 @ 8:06am

    To be fair...

    As a Brit, "Intelligence" and "Services" don't go together with "British".

     

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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Dec 7th, 2011 @ 8:23am

    If Google can find it...

    How secret can it be?





    Those tags should be pretty much used anytime I want to keep state secrets.

     

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      Skeptical Cynic (profile), Dec 7th, 2011 @ 8:28am

      Re: If Google can find it...

      Funny I put two tags in my post but they are not showing. (The 2 empty lines. See how well it works, MI5-7) Here they are is a way that maybe they will show.

      meta name="robots" content="noindex"
      meta name="googlebot" content="noindex"

      Also I previewed it this time to make sure it works.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 1:12pm

    Sir David Pepper = Sir Humphrey Appleby?

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Dec 7th, 2011 @ 6:31pm

    And here I thought the MIAA/RIAA/**AA was actually an offshoot of SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion)

    Turns out the British Intelligence Service knew it was Google all along.

    No wonder LOLcats are so ubiquitous on Google

    ;)

     

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    JMT, Dec 8th, 2011 @ 2:27am

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

    Actually, I would've thought that thanks to Google Maps and Streeview anyone can today see photographic detail of far away countries which hitherto would have been available only if you could afford a plane ticket and a digital camera.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2011 @ 5:23pm

    Them googles are killing our spy industry...

     

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    lrobbo (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 2:27pm

    Them Googles are taking over the world . . .

     

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