MI5 joins Instagram while ex-Children’s Commissioner sues TikTok

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The UK’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5 is joining Instagram in what is being described as the latest step by Britain’s spy agencies to the step out of the shadows.

From today (April 22) users of the social networking site can follow the secret service via @mi5official with the platform being used for online Q&As with agents and intelligence officers as well as promoting career opportunities and details of past missions.

MI5 director general Ken McCallum said it is time to cast off “Martini-drinking stereotypes” in a column for the Telegraph, adding it would be a “dangerous vanity” for the agency to try and operate “inside its own bubble”.

 ‘Opening up is key to our future success’

McCallum said in October that he wanted the agency to “open up and reach out in new ways”, particularly to communicate with younger demographics.

“Much of what we do needs to remain invisible, but what we are doesn’t have to be,” McCallum said. “In fact, opening up is key to our future success.”

Bursting popular myths about the spy agency and secret services is another aim of the Instagram account.

In the Telegraph, McCallum writes: “We must get past whatever Martini-drinking stereotypes may be lingering by conveying a bit more of what today’s MI5 is actually like, so that people don’t rule themselves out [of working for MI5] based on perceived barriers such as socio-economic background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability, or which part of the country they happen to have been born in.”

MI5 follows GCHQ – Government Communications Headquarters which “provides intelligence, protects information and informs relevant UK policy to keep society safe and successful in the internet age” – onto Instagram with @gchq amassing 22.9k followers since it signed up in October 2018. GCHQ was also the first of the UK’s intelligence agencies onto Twitter which it joined in January 2016 and has 132,000 followers.

TikTok may be forced to pay billions in compensation

Elsewhere, Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner for England has launched a “landmark case” against TikTok, the incredibly popular short video-sharing app that boomed in lockdown.

Longfield – has filed a case at the high court alleging TikTok is breaching UK and EU children’s data protection law, as reported in the Guardian. The claim could cost the Chinese media company billions of pounds in compensation, said Longfield, who wants to stop the app processing children’s data and information.

“We’re not trying to say that it’s not fun,” said Longfield about the app. “Families like it. It’s been something that’s been really important over lockdown, it’s helped people keep in touch, they’ve had lots of enjoyment.

“But my view is that the price to pay for that shouldn’t be there – for their personal information to be illegally collected en masse, and passed on to others, most probably for financial gain, without them even knowing about it.”

Longfield – who stepped down in February this year having been appointed Children’s Commissioner for England in March 2015 –  said the “excessive nature” of the data collection by TikTok is what “drove us” to target them rather than other apps.

“It’s the fact that, for this [age] group of children it is the app of choice but also it’s the kind of information they’re collecting – it can’t possibly be appropriate for a video app, especially exact location, and probably face recognition as well.”



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