We all know to at least some degree of the corporate surveillance of social media, how our profile information is gathered, collected and eventually sold (Data = Profit and Information = Commodity).  This blog will look at social media surveillance through a less negative viewpoint (not looking at the control of power, which is also attributed to state and law surveillance), and would see how surveillance of social media can protect and help citizens from criminal activity both in the virtual and real world.

 According to statistics by LexisNexis (2014)

  • 81% of law enforcements professionals use social media as a tool for investigation
  • 73% of law enforcements professionals believe social media speed up the process of solving cases

Only recently has the House of Lords approved Investigatory Powers Bill (Snoopers Charter), which allows UK intelligence agencies and law enforcements to collect large amounts of communication data through various means, including the hacking of devices, without the need for a warrant. Of course, the bill has had negative criticism surrounding it, but if it can enforce better levels of protection and ideally save lives, then would our privacy not be a small price to pay for protection?

The public’s disapproval of the Investigatory Powers does have legitimate reasoning, but over the years of social media, we have seen many crimes being stopped, and many criminals being caught through the powers of surveillance.  One of the more comical examples of this is after the events of the 2011 London riot. During this time, many looters posted pictures of their “loot” on public social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This allowed police not only to identify the criminals involved but to also use the pictures posted as evidence of the looters handling stolen goods.  And let’s not also forget about the impact of just having the presence of surveillance, as this implements the idea that you could be being watched at any time in the mind of citizens and potential criminals, and this I believe is the biggest deterrents of criminal activity in heavily surveilled settings (both offline and online).

We know social media can prevent terrorist attacks and major criminal activity by intercepting the channels of communication of suspected criminals. But note the use of the word “suspected”, as a major concern of the Investigatory Powers Bill and surveillance, in general, is that we are all under the eye of the state. We are all made to feel like a criminal.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. 

Benjamin Franklin (1755)

Is giving up our privacy worth the little protection we get? Or are we just making a deal with the devil?