GCHQ joins Twitter in drive for openness

Intelligence body is the first UK security agency to join social network

UK government listening post GCHQ revealed today that its has joined Twitter, with a view to becoming more transparent.

GCHQ is the first UK government intelligence agency to join the social network.

Andrew Pike, director of communications at GCHQ, said in a statement: "In joining social media GCHQ can use its own voice to talk directly about the important work we do in keeping Britain safe."

The agency added that it wanted to be "more accessible and to help the public understand more about our work".

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Part of this will include reaching out to the technical community and adding its voice to social media conversations about technology, maths, cybersecurity and other topics, the agency said.

GCHQ's Twitter account first tweeted at 11:02 BST, and so far has more than 6,000 followers.

Social media has become an important arena for security agencies, who have used it to scour for developing threats and leads on parties they have taken an interest in. Services, such as Dataminr, which Twitter invests in, are also known to have provided security agencies will early alerts of terror attacks and other crises.

Elsewhere in the world, other intelligence agencies have had Twitter accounts for several years. The FBI has had a presence on the social network since November 2008, and the NSA since December 2013.

GCHQ, however, has preferred a less talkative demeanour. Reports that the agency has allegedly been spying on all UK citizens, in the wake of the Edwad Snowden revelations, had also fuelled fears that giving the intelligence agency further powers in the form of the Investigatory Powers Bill, or Snooper's Charter could be a bad thing for privacy.

The intelligence agency has made some efforts to make some its own technology available, though, such as making its database retrieval tool, Gaffer, to the data community.

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