chapter  9
18 Pages

Spy vs Spy

The surveillance state of social media
WithLeanne McRae

Most concern about digital criminality has been focused on consumers, involving the themes of cyberbullying, trolling, fraud, identity theft, doxing, and protecting young people from online predators. However, in an age of mass surveillance, the revelations of Edward Snowden, and government programs like PRISM, it took revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s use of social media to radically shift public perceptions about online privacy. More recently, terrorists’ use of encrypted social media such as Telegram has been a source of anxiety among security analysts and intelligence agencies. Ensuing debates about crime, privacy, and free speech are taking place within the discourses of consumer rights and protections, in contrast to civil liberties and civic responsibilities.

The data gathering processes of social media for advertising purposes and the right to privacy for users exist in tension with the oversight of potential online crime hubs by the forces of law and order. Transparency and consumerism now occupy anxious terrain. If secure social media platforms now enable clandestine and criminal behaviour, the drive to protect privacy is subsequently tangled in crime and harm discourses that threaten to strip rights and promote persecution. Therefore, we need detailed knowledge of how data gathering, crime prevention, consumer privacy, and civil liberties clash. Using Telegram as an example, this chapter will examine how terrorists use social media to plan and execute attacks, and it will consider what implications this has for user privacy in tension with the role of law enforcement systems in legislating, surveying, and regulating online environments.