back to article UK MoD data strategy calls for social media surveillance on behalf of 'local authorities'

The Ministry of Defence has published a data strategy that calls on the British armed forces to make better use of its "enduring strategic asset" – by spying on social media and dobbing in dissenters to local councils. In a move bound to fuel tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, the MoD's Data Strategy for Defence …

  1. Mishak Silver badge

    "social media sentiment analysis"

    They do realise that there are people out there who don't waste their lives on "social media", don't they?

    1. Pete4000uk

      Re: "social media sentiment analysis"

      Why? What are they hiding?

      1. Irongut

        Re: "social media sentiment analysis"

        Everything. We're hiding everything.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: "social media sentiment analysis"

          I'm even hiding that I'm hiding everything!

          1. Swiss Anton

            Re: "social media sentiment analysis"

            Er, but you're not.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "social media sentiment analysis"

              Oh yes I am!

    2. Blazde
      Megaphone

      Re: "social media sentiment analysis"

      It's called sampling. If we listen to the loudmouths who've nothing better to do with their time than competing to make the most irreverent, judgemental or outrageous comment on any particular issue we'll have a worthwhile measure of 'population sentiment' and can safely ignore the majority who can't be bothered spilling their minds onto the internet, right?

      My sentiment on 'Data strategy for Defence' policy paper: tldr

  2. Pete4000uk

    Mr Brown at No.62...

    ...is complaining about the council bin policy change!

    Send someone around to have a talk to him!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mr Brown at No.62...

      If this process or operation is implemented, i can see it being abused by Local Council people.

      I have a neighbour who is seriously devious and manipulative, who has a friend in the council. At a local level, strict controls are not in place for processing information. There may be general processes that everyone signs up to, but the attitude is that their behaviour is justified even when it is against the rules. Essentially, people believe local government is corrupt in places, for a good reason.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Mr Brown at No.62...

        It's bad when you live on a street that has a resident having a beef with the council. For example, council setting up pilot paid parking on all streets in the area except the street of that resident...

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    WTF?

    "efficient and effective planning of supply chain and people"

    Has got what to do with FaceBook ?

    And why is the military preoccupied by that ?

    It's a government issue. If the government can't be arsed to keep the peace, then it calls the military. That's when the military needs to intervene.

    And, since the UK is, nominally, a democracy, the military should have nothing to do with social unrest because the solution is a change of government.

    It's called elections. They're still a thing.

    If a government goes so wrong as to spark a revolution, the military will be informed.

    It does not need to follow Beijing's lead.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: "efficient and effective planning of supply chain and people"

      Mr Churchill would disagree.

      In times of unhappiness with working conditions, get ready to machine gun those peasents.

  4. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Black Helicopters

    This sounds like a good way to waste a lot of taxpayers' of money to me. Do we know whether the author of the "data strategy" has (or has partners/spouses that have) some kind of financial link to or other interest in companies that might happen to specialise in providing software to undertake such tasks, or is this all a mere coincidence? I'm sure the answer would be quite interesting.

  5. alain williams Silver badge

    "population sentiment"

    Is this scanning to see if we want to blow up the local town hall or if we want to vote out $party ?

    The first I might, begrudgingly, think about accepting but I fear that this might slide into the second.

    Please stop trying to emulate China & Russia (amongst other countries).

    1. Swiss Anton

      Re: "population sentiment"

      To be fair, there are many town halls up and down the land that could benefit from some rapid deconstruction.

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Better Late than Never is Normally Just in the Nick of Time to Prevent a Catastrophe

    Nowhere does the document explain why a strategy paper has gone so far off the beaten track that it promotes collecting data the MoD doesn't have and using it for decidedly non-military purposes.

    Probably definitely because MoD Bods and Boffinry recognise the reality that national Parliamentary government services and employees and private sector utilities and facilities so spectacularly fail to fulfil and wisely exercise the remit. And that puts the electorate and national assets in peril of being usurped and overwhelmed/sinisterly exploited.

    The only question I would presently have is ........ WTF took the MoD so long to get their act together and make like as if they were going to make and take a shrewd leading move in operational theatres of both real practical and ethereal virtual engagement ...... for it is not as if they do not have the necessary resources and futures sources readily available to them, is it ?

  7. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Is this even constitutional?

    I know the UK doesn't have a written constitution as such, but it does have a body of laws and precedent that serve as the same thing.

    I'd be mildly surprised if this was within the bounds of their operating parameters. Its only the Army's job to monitor and quell civil disturbance if requested by HM Govt. Otherwise its the Rozzers, GCHQ's and MI5's job.

    Feels like bureaucratic overreach.

    This would be one more step down the path to becoming a banana republic, though tbf we're much closer than we were 2 years ago.

    Its possibly also a GDPR breach unless they wholly collect data in aggregate - iffy legitimate interest.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Is this even constitutional?

      As far as I am concerned, the military should have no domestic role unless the government has declared an emergency. Unless there has been an attack, it is nothing to do with the military.

      If the government want to use military resources in an emergency (such as tanker drivers) then they should need to follow a formal constitutional process, that requires approval from parliament within a short time (days, not months). And absolutely no ongoing domestic military activity (such as soldiers on the streets, or military engaging in domestic surveillance) without a similar approval and ongoing renewal process.

      1. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: Is this even constitutional?

        agreed. See Duke of Wellingtons response to Waterloo Massacre. The Army was not to make war on its own citizens

        1. Captain Hogwash

          Re: Is this even constitutional?

          Peterloo?

    2. BazNav

      Re: Is this even constitutional?

      Who knows what they really mean but this is possibly a case of "impenetrable MoD-speak"

      If you look at the blah above the bullet points they are talking about "a soldier in hostile territory" ie someone else's country, and once you go overseas on military operations there are a different set of laws you have to adhere to. The reference to "local authorities" in this case is probably not about the local council but the military/security authority (person in charge) of the area.

      The paper could be about a sinister power grab my the military but is more likely to be another example of why normal people should review all documents produced by senior officers before they're released to the press and general public

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Is this even constitutional?

      It is already a "banana republic". How many times you have heard of mates contracts and other form of brazen corruption but never heard of anyone being charged with anything, not even investigated?

      There is no oversight and no accountability for anything (maybe except if some media mogul does not like particular politician, they may run a bad press and nudge idle government bodies to do something through manufactured public outrage).

    4. The Mole

      Re: Is this even constitutional?

      Last time I checked GCHQ and MI5 are part of the military command. And being signal intelligence and bring technical skills it would almost certainly be GCHQ the job landed with (assuming they aren't already doing it and this is just a way to make it legal/authorized/separately budgeted).

      Do yes it won't be the army doing it but will be the military.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Is this even constitutional?

        "Last time I checked GCHQ and MI5 are part of the military command."

        You're wrong they all have separate chains of command its part of the checks and balances of the UK State.

        MI5 report to the Home Office. GCHQ report via the Foreign Office (same as MI6 as they are more external looking) and MOD via the Secretary for Defence.

        They are deliberately all segregated bodies because their duties should not often overlap tho they may work in partnership. For instance members of GCHQ, the Army and MI5 dont have the power to arrest civilians (outside of Acts of Civil Emergency where all bets are off)

  8. steelpillow Silver badge

    My two penn'orth

    I am in the throes of reading Behind the Enigma, John Ferris' cockroach-crushing history of GCHQ. He hammers the point how UK interception led the world because all our agencies integrated their operations and shared their information. I'd hazard that the MoD suggestion is more about opening up expensive top secret spy systems to doing something useful in their spare time.

    The debate about how deeply we can/could/should spy on ourselves, or not, is a wider one and this MoD proposal is probably just caught in the crossfire on that one.

    I could be wrong.

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    What kind of people are they employing in the MoD nowadays?

    Is it trying to expand it's remit into the realm of policing the population?

    Maybe the next suggestion will be the setting up of a paramilitary gendarmerie and perhaps appointing local Gauleiters at say mayoral level.

    Having been in it, I was always under the impression the job of the British military was to defend and protect the liberty and freedoms of the British people rather than curtail them.

  10. ratcatcher67

    Been done before

    I do recall a labour government allowing local councils to use anti-terror laws to snoop (acessing internet records, location information etc) on people.

  11. tip pc Silver badge

    where does this come from

    There seems to be a consistent drift to an authoritarian regime & not just in the UK but across the globe.

    We have governments constantly wanting to see into more of our data, we have Apple's CSAM thing and gaining in frequency is a push via the media to denigrate social media companies using encryption for their "customers" interactions.

    We have a billion cameras installed to enforce congestion charging & motorway speed limits plus monitoring peoples movements through towns, cities & even shops.

    Mobile phone companies for decades have been mandated to triangulate handset location and keep that data for extended times this was a requirement well before phones got gps.

    marketing companies harvested wifi and bluetooth Mac addresses from shops and other businesses they'd know how long you spent in each shop and what shops you went to next.

    the intelligence services don't need to monitor our Social media. They need to monitor the other places that criminals congregate to do their communications.

    It won't be long before they run out of criminals and start creating criminals out of ordinary law abiding soles in order to justify their own existence.

  12. revenant

    Just a little bit off

    "Nowhere does the document explain why a strategy paper has gone so far off the beaten track that it promotes collecting data the MoD doesn't have and using it for decidedly non-military purposes."

    I don't think there would be much argument against the MoD being prepared to temporarily help out the Authorities if civilian structures/organisations break down, but that little 'Political demonstration' section implies a bit more involvement in civilian matters than that. It seems to be straying off-base, somewhat.

    Most of the document (regardless of whether or not it is pie-in-the-sky) is legitimately focused on what the MoD exists for, but that section on monitoring social media and feeding info on local unhappiness to 'Local authorities' seems a bit out of place. Although it doesn't actually say that they plan on 'dobbing in dissenters to local councils', the mechanism, once in place, will surely be used for just that.

    If they follow through on this then I imagine the first change in popular sentiment they detect might be the one where they realise that they're pissing away the general good will the population has towards the military, by acting on the side of politicians against the population - rather than defending the population (the clue is in the MoD's name).

    1. Irongut

      Re: Just a little bit off

      > the clue is in the MoD's name

      Names change and before it was the MoD it was the Ministry of War.

      You could change the name to Ministry of Peace, it would make no difference. Names mean nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Names mean nothing.....

        @irongut

        *

        Sorry to be pedantic, but if names mean nothing, then we would not need dictionaries.....

        I think you meant to say that "names sometimes don't mean what the dictionary says they mean".

        My favourite pair of words to demonstrate my (suggested) re-write: "hot", "cool" -- both meaning almost the same thing, and both contradicting usual usage.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Management Information??

    The Royal Navy, the Army and the RAF are complex, large organisations. I guess they are quite hard to manage. So I took the time to read the paper carefully.

    *

    So........it's strange that the "data" needed to manage these organisations isn't mentioned once!!

    *

    But the document takes time to talk about snooping on civilians!! I thought the STASI in Cheltenham had already taken care of that!!

    *

    I see.......the efficient management of these taxpayer-funded organisations (and the data required to do so) is "out of scope"!!

    *

    Maybe the MOD has an unlimited budget....so "efficient management" is the least of their concerns. Data about fighting somewhere, data about civilians.....both MUCH more important.

    *

    Just saying!!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The MOD should start with the lefty terrorists

    The mob that want our homes insulated but haven’t insulated there own continue to cause havoc every day (not today as it’s wet and not at weekends) unabated.

    There aren’t that many of them yet the authorities haven’t been able to stop them and have been instead protecting these protesters from angry commuters trying to complete there journeys.

    There has been a marked uptick in left wing activism that has got in the way of law abiding citizens over the last 5 years. The media have portrayed these activities in a populist light but the reality is that these activities are not supported by the majority of centrist’s in this nation, especially when you look at the election results.

    It’s time these extremists where brought to heal before they do real lasting damage.

    The problem is they have infiltrated authoritarian positions and spouting off policy nonsense like this MOD thing to spy on citizens or sage predicting hundreds of thousands of cv19 cases unless we all lockdown again or the Supreme Court declaring it illegal for the unelected pm to call an election.

    We’ve been under attack for sometime, hopefully this attack can be stopped and sensibility and purpose restored.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The MOD should start with the lefty terrorists

      This is a serious comment :

      I cannot work out if you have written a spoof piece, or you actually believe what you have written, and it is truly what you think.

      Do you write comments on the Daily Express and Daily Mail ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Virtual Sub-Contractors Needed ASAP .... Current Crews Overwhelmed.

    Yes, not very stealthy of the MoD, is It. If the 77th Brigade is not careful they'll be seen as Clumsy Clodhoppers rather than enjoying a reputation which reflects on their excellent abilities and facilities and utilities for IntelAIgent Cloudhopping.

    If it is a struggle to maintain and/or regain command and control with present resources, common sense dictates engaging with other absent assets/foreign bodies for something novel is certainly required whenever faced by anything and/or everything engaged with novel forces and sources.

  16. NonSSL-Login

    Mass surveillance

    Give us ALL the data ALL the time. We will work out what to do with it later...

    1984 was a warning, not a guide.

  17. onur6312

    The person who is complaining about the new council bin policy needs to be taken care of. :D

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