Social Networking websites are rich source of sensitive and personal information. This information is mostly shared voluntarily by the users of such Social Networking websites but in many cases they are also forced to part with this information to have access and continued access to such websites. Naturally, Intelligence Agencies have "Inherent Interest" in such information especially those Intelligence Agencies who belong to the same Nation where such Social Networking websites are located.
Intelligence Agencies gather such information either with a Court Warrant or without the same. Further, they also gather such information by simply analysing the "Publically Available Information" by creating an account at the concerned Social Networking website. In short, Intelligence Agencies have been engaged in “Intelligence Gathering Activities” for long. This may be covert or overt, technological or non technological, legal or illegal and so on. But this gathering exercise was there and it is going to be there in future as well.
However, modern practice of Intelligence Gathering is crucially different from traditional practices. Traditional Intelligence Gathering was more on the side of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) whereas the contemporary one is based more upon Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
As far as Technological Intelligence Gathering is concerned, Social Media is a “Favourite Destination” for Intelligence and Security Agencies. Social Media is a favourite destination because it is a “Gold Mine” of valuable and voluntary information available for ready reference. Social Media also provides the best platform for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
Social Media also, in majority of cases, provides a “Legally Obtainable” and “Legally Relevant” Evidence. Since the “Information” or “Evidence” is available “Openly” and to “Public at Large” and in a “Non Confidential” manner, generally any such acquired Information or Evidence can be “Relied Upon” in a Court of Law. However, “Admissibility” of such Evidence is subject to the “Discretion” of the Court and well established “Legal Principles”.
Besides Intelligence Agencies, Military Forces are also using Social Media to gain Information relevant to their uses. Military and Intelligence Agencies have been using “Fake Profiles” to get such Information. The aim may be to get a “Predictive Behaviour or Trend” or to obtain any other Information that is of “Strategic Importance”.
Getting Information from Social Media requires good Communication and Data Mining Skills. However, while doing so, one must not violate any Civil Liberties or Laws Protecting such Information. Although many countries have Social Media Laws, we have no dedicated Social Media Laws in India. Even we do not have any Social Media Policy of India.
Social Networking Laws in India are urgently required. To start with, we must have a Social Networking Policy of India. Open Source Intelligence through Social Media Platforms would raise a number of Techno Legal Issues, especially Civil Liberty Issues. For instance, questions like what constitutes “Public Data”, how can a Person Legally obtains Data, what is the “Relevancy” of such Information/Data, how the “Admissibility” of such Information/Data would be decided, etc would be asked.
Similarly, Privacy Issues, Speech and Expression Issues, scope and nature of E-Surveillance, etc would also be required to be resolved in future. This is a new field for both Law makers and Law Enforcers and needs an “Urgent Attention” of Parliament of India.