Government takes to Facebook stalking as part of snooper’s charter

Tweet about the government? Then the government will know about it, according to new plans.

Tweet about the government? Then the government will know about it, according to new plans.

Ministers have revealed that the UK Government has awarded a contract to five companies to track what people are talking about on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and even personal blogs.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone – the ‘snooper’s charter’ has been on the table for a while and was part of the Tory manifesto – but the idea that updates on what people are talking about will be provided to Whitehall ‘in real time’ is news.

Originally, plans had suggested that accounts would be checked if it was suspected that the author was involved in suspicious activity. However, now it seems that all topics related to the government could be pulled, with a list of keywords and topics to be provided to officials and ministers (I wonder if it will be censored?).

According to the Cabinet Office, departments have already monitored social media.

Of course, we already knew that certain government ministers check to see what is happening on social.

The Cabinet Office went on to say that the hiring of the companies to track those discussing the government ensures better value for money than the current system.

It has been claimed that the monitoring of digital and social media will help the government understand what people are saying, helping to identify their concerns and shape policies based on that.

Without wanting to come off all Carrie Bradshaw, but with that point in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder…what if the first thing that the social media tracking finds is that people don’t like to be tracked on social?

For those on Facebook, it will be #smugfaces all around, as the social giant has recently added options for people to add their PGP (pretty good privacy) keys to their profiles, and will also send emails to people using private technology.

The use of PGP keys mean that only those sending and receiving the messages will be able to read them, so the government won’t be able to read messages even if they try.

Will the public knowledge of the social snooping lead to the introduction of other tools to make social media less social? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, hello, whoever from the government is reading this blog!

By Ishbel Macleod, PR & Social Media Consultant