The CIA is Grammin’

In an effort to increase transparency, the US Intelligence Agency has joined the photo sharing app, Instagram. Will social media engagement add transparency to the agency.

Background

The Central Intelligence Agency assists the President and senior US government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security. It is the only agency authorized by law to carry out and oversee covert action at the behest of the President.

The CIA has expanded its role and one of the largest divisions has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber operations. Social media intelligence allows organizations to monitor social channels and conversations, respond to social signals and synthesize data points into the analysis.

Analysis

The US Central Intelligence Agency has launched its Instagram account in a bid for transparency. CIA Director Gina Haspel said during a national security forum that “The usually secretive intelligence agency plans to launch an Instagram page”. Haspel declassified the agency's plans while discussing its social media-savvy recruits and the challenge of trying to be transparent about its activities.

The debut post on the account depicts an apparent office desk at the agency crowded with cloak-and-dagger items accompanied by the message "I spy with my little eye..." A notebook on the desk has an agency's message written in Arabic. (The message: "Share what we can, protect what we must.") 

"Joining Instagram is another way we're sharing CIA's stories and recruiting talented Americans to serve here," CIA spokesperson said. The account joins the CIA's growing social media presence, which also encapsulates Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter. Recently the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called “persona management software” which would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals.

Assessment

Our assessment is that amidst the rise of live streaming of violent crimes and weaponisation of social media platforms, the agency would like stay on top of any crises by setting up real-time alerts based on spikes in social data. It is also an opportunity to connect with the community and contribute to regaining lost trust. We feel that this move will enable the agency to educate and provide necessary information to the public.

It can be noted that the CIA and the world’s largest ad agency network, WPP have worked together on social media data mining venture since 2009. WPP currently claims to own the world’s largest databases of unique individual profiles. Google had also partnered with CIA in 2004 for Google Earth.

 

Image Courtesy - U.S. Government [Public domain]