Social media intelligence: The national security-privacy nexus

  • Dries Putter Stellenbosch University
  • Susan Henrico Stellenbosch University


Globally, changes in technology have always shaped the intelligence collection environment. South Africa is no different. The emergence of satellite imagery had a significant influence on the Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) capabilities and, similarly, the emergence of the telegram and later the telephone had and equally significant effect on the Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) environment.  With communications being revolutionised by mobile technology that include recording, geo-positioning and photography, collection and distribution are ubiquitous.  Smart mobile communication technology is also the driver of social media everywhere, at all ages, state, and non-state, non-stop. More recently, Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT) has had the same significant influence on the collection of intelligence in general. Globally several examples of the successful exploitation of SOCMINT can be found internationally, it would be surprising if South Africa is not a statistic of this phenomenon yet.  Initially, many organisations viewed (and some still do) SOCMINT as an Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) tool. However, when considering the South African intelligence landscape, the concepts democracy, transparency, and intelligence oversight are calibrating factors to bear in mind. It is also important to consider the influence of the national legislative framework governing the use of SOCMINT in South Africa by state and non-state actors. It then becomes clear that issues such as personal legal right to privacy means that SOCMINT is probably no longer covered by the scope of the OSINT definition and that intelligence organisations collecting social media content and producing SOCMINT should adhere to the legislative framework governing the collection and use of social media content and the production of SOCMINT.


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How to Cite
Putter, D., & Henrico, S. (2022). Social media intelligence: The national security-privacy nexus. Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 50(1), 19-44.