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This 2012 book looks at how social media intelligence (SOCMINT) is being utilized by the British government to make what the authors claim to be a legitimate and publically acceptable contribution to public security and safety. The authors provide two conditions for this to occur: 1). SOCMINT must be based on a publically agreed process and sound legal footing; 2). It must also be able to produce reliable and actionable intelligence, which requires greater investment in human and technological capabilities. The paper further lays out six principles for the use of SOCMINT by states in a way that both of these challenges can be met and overcome: 1). There must be sufficient, sustainable cause; 2). There must be integrity of motive; 3). The methods used must be proportionate and necessary; 4). There must be right authority, validated by external oversight; 5). Resource to secret intelligence must be a last resort in cases where more open sources can be used; 6). There must be a reasonable prospect of success.

This paper will be of use to scholars, researchers and practitioners studying the proper development of checks and balances for a SOCMINT framework within a security context, the associated requirement of public consultations, and debates surrounding the further development of best practices and underlying technologies. The authors posit that Britain’s response to new technology challenges can be consistent with Britain’s approach to civil liberties and information rights. A two-route approach to the use of SOCMINT is identified, making a clear distinction between open source non-intrusive SOCMINT and intrusive or surveillance SOCMINT. The authors argue that open source non-intrusive SOCMINT should be tightly bound by conditions relating to anonymity, data protection, privacy, or the full consent of the producers of that information. The authors believe that both an interdepartmental review of current legislation and the publishing of a green paper, subject to public consultation, are required. They call for the development of a more relevant legal framework and oversight mechanisms, coupled with government-led enhancement and strengthening of SOCMINT.

Sir David Omand, Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller