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Facebook And Twitter Monitoring Could Have "Chilling Effect"

Former head of UK intelligence agency GCHQ, Sir David Omand, has said that government surveillance is still way behind in tracking social media activity.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used by criminals and terrorists as a "secret space", and whilst the government is attempting to monitor the situation, Sir David fears that surveillance on social networking could produce a "chilling effect" regarding its use.

Giving intelligence officers "real-time" access to emails and calls without the need for a warrant has been proposed by the government, and is expected to be highlighted in the Queen's speech.

But Sir David said: "We haven't had a very clear statement about how the government is approaching all this stuff."

A co-written report by Sir David for think tank Demos found that intelligence collected from blogs, Facebook and Twitter should be "collected and used in a way that is both effective and ethical".

"For safety and security, authorities have got to be able to tackle this kind of space," said Sir David.

"I don't know anyone who would say that you should ring-fence social media and say 'that's a secret space where paedophiles, criminals and terrorists can happily play because you can't get at it'."

But the report's authors said that intelligence gathering in the future must be based "on respect for human rights and the associated principles of accountability, proportionality and necessity".

Should this not be practiced, there is a "danger that [it] could result in a chilling effect on the use of social media itself, which would have negative economic and social consequences for the country as a whole".

Source: BBC (opens in new tab)

Mariel Norton is a self-confessed girly geek with a penchant for technology, and previously wrote for ITProPortal, with experience on TheNextWeb, UKFast, WorldRemit, Virgin Media, Google, and more.