Private intelligence agency

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A private intelligence agency (PIA) is a private sector (non-governmental) or quasi-non-government organization devoted to the collection, analysis, and exploitation of information, through the evaluation of public sources (OSINT or Open Source INTelligence) and cooperation with other institutions.[1] Some private intelligence agencies obtain information deceptively or through on-the-ground activities for clients.[2][3][4][5][6]

Private agencies have made their services available to governments as well as individual consumers; they have also sold their services to large corporations with an interest or investment in the category (e.g. crime, disease, corruption, etc.) or the region (e.g. Middle East, Vietnam, Prague, etc.) or to investigate perceived threats such as environmental groups or human rights groups.[7][8][9][10][11]

Some private intelligence agencies use online perception management,[12] social media influencing/manipulation campaigns, strategic disinformation[13] (such as fake news production/propaganda production[14]), opposition research and political campaigns using social media and artificial intelligence such as Psy-Group, Cambridge Analytica and Black Cube.[15][16][17][18][19] The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab described the activity of Archimedes Group as practicing "information warfare".[20] Former anti-corruption prosecutor Aaron Sayne said private intelligence is "an industry that's largely undocumented and has very flexible ethical norms" as agencies collect and use sensitive information "for one purpose on day one and some completely contradictory purpose on day two".[21]

The private intelligence industry has boomed due to shifts in how the U.S. government is conducting espionage in the War on Terror. Some $56 billion (USD) or 70% of the $80 billion national intelligence budget of the United States was in 2013 earmarked for the private sector according to The New York Times' Tim Shorrock. Functions previously performed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and other intelligence agencies are now outsourced to private intelligence corporations.[22]

List of private intelligence companies

See also


  1. ^ Smith, Michael (2008-06-01). "Private Intelligence Companies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
  2. ^ Bergman, Ronen; Shane, Scott (2019-01-28). "The Case of the Bumbling Spy: A Watchdog Group Gets Him on Camera". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  3. ^ Entous, Adam (2019-02-28). "How a Private Israeli Intelligence Firm Spied on Pro-Palestinian Activists in the U.S." The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  4. ^ Chang, Alvin (2018-03-23). "The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, explained with a simple diagram". Vox. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  5. ^ "Harvey Weinstein Hired ex-Mossad Agents to Track Women Accusing Him of Sexual Assault". Haaretz. 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  6. ^ "APNewsBreak: Undercover agents target cybersecurity watchdog". The Seattle Times. 2019-01-25. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  7. ^ Keefe, Patrick R. (2010-03-12), "Privatized Spying: The Emerging Intelligence Industry", in Johnson, Loch K. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence, Oxford University Press, pp. 295–309, doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195375886.003.0018, ISBN 9780195375886, retrieved 2019-06-19
  8. ^ Ripley, Amanda (31 July 1998). "Rent A-Spook". Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  9. ^ "UK worry over Aussie spy link". NewsComAu. 2016-01-18. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  10. ^ Shezaf, Hagar; Jacobson, Jonathan (2018-10-20). "Revealed: Israel's Cyber-spy Industry Helps World Dictators Hunt Dissidents and Gays". Haaretz. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  11. ^ Britovšek, Jaroš; Tičar, Bojan; Sotlar, Andrej (2018-04-01). "Private intelligence in the Republic of Slovenia: theoretical, legal, and practical aspects". Security Journal. 31 (2): 410–427. doi:10.1057/s41284-017-0107-0. ISSN 1743-4645. S2CID 157343997.
  12. ^ Granville, Kevin (2018-03-19). "Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: What You Need to Know as Fallout Widens". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  13. ^ Entous, Adam; Farrow, Ronan (2019-02-11). "Private Mossad for Hire". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  14. ^ Mazzetti, Mark; Bergman, Ronen; Kirkpatrick, David D.; Haberman, Maggie (2018-10-08). "Rick Gates Sought Online Manipulation Plans From Israeli Intelligence Firm for Trump Campaign". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  15. ^ Biddle, Sam (2019-06-11). "Right-Wing Sting Group Project Veritas Is Breaking Facebook's "Authentic Behavior" Rule. Now What?". The Intercept. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  16. ^ Farrow, Adam EntousRonan (11 February 2019). "Private Mossad for Hire". Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  17. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (2018-03-18). "'I made Steve Bannon's psychological warfare tool': meet the data war whistleblower". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  18. ^ Samantha Bradshaw & Philip N. Howard, “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation.” Samuel Woolley and Philip N. Howard, Eds. Working Paper 2017.12. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. 37 pp.
  19. ^ Gabrielle Lim. "Disinformation Annotated Bibliography." Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, May 2019.
  20. ^ "Facebook says Israeli company used fake accounts to target African elections". CNN. 16 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  21. ^ Burgis, Tom (14 January 2017). "Dossier affair shines light on shadowy private intelligence work: In the corporate sphere paymasters sometimes have ulterior motives". Financial Times. p. 3.
  22. ^ Abbot, Sebastian. "The Outsourcing of U.S. Intelligence Analysis". News21 Project. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.