A social networking world makes it harder for the UK intelligence services to recruit a spy without a profile, as Ken Munro explains.
Imagine the scene. James Bond enters the HQ of a criminal mastermind intent on world destruction. Waiting for him are a host of henchpersons, all armed to the teeth.
“We've been expecting you, Mr Bond,” says the evil Blofeld, stroking his white Persian cat. “We saw your Twitter update.”
The UK's universities are a prime recruiting ground for our intelligence services. Clever, well-versed students apparently make excellent espionage agents.
Herein lies the problem: if you're planning on having a second identity for undercover work, it doesn't help if your photos, friends and real name are splattered all over various social networking sites. Try finding a student at a university who hasn't done just that.
The UK's intelligence agencies are worried. From schoolchildren on Bebo, through Facebook-obsessed young professionals, to well-networked CEOs on LinkedIn, having an online presence is a must in this day and age. But with the explosion of social networking sites, it has become virtually impossible to find recruits who don't have some sort of an online trail.
Pandora's box is well and truly opened, so how do you go about suppressing your online identity?
The problem for national security staff is that once these details are out there, it is well nigh impossible to remove them completely.
Facebook has famously left traces of former members who believed their records had been deleted, and merely ‘deactivating' has very little effect – your details could still be there for those with the right technological knowledge to see for all eternity.