Taken from an institutional lesson
I have worked for more than five years in the field of human behaviour analysis, also related to advanced technological systems. […]
I have planned and implemented systems for investigative analysis, for some important international companies, focused mainly on social networks: this activity is the little-known Virtual Humint, i.e. the collection of intelligence through virtual operators, avatars and online identities, products in large quantity and controlled by skilled operators using special platforms that allow managing dummies online identities, which can live even years, infiltrating groups or communities to be kept under observation.
Considering that Humint is a category of intelligence derived from information collected and provided by human sources and its typical activities consist of interrogations and conversations with persons having access to informations, with Virtual Humint there is the opportunity to run computer programs simulating the actual reality, surfing the photorealistic environments in real time and interacting with subjects present in them even if not (yet!) in a totally immersive way. […]
The most comprehensive of these systems [...] enables , at the same time, to analyse and classify large volumes of data and documents in various formats, as web pages, forums, blogs, etc., for OSINT - Open Source Intelligence activities, that is the extraction and selection of data from open sources such as the Web. For this reason, they are better defined dual-use items – software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications and/or can contribute to the proliferation of systems or weapons.
In complex structures and in well-organized multidisciplinary models [...], Virtual Humint platforms allow complex analysis for a more precise understanding of information and adequate response.
The creation of fake profiles on social media for investigative purposes is an activity that many governments rely on their secret services in order to conduct covert actions, or secret operations aiming at manipulate or influence, or overseas events or situations, with the aim to protect the security or promote the interests of the State that engages in the operation. […]
Covert actions, in any way are made, should be among the most important tasks entrusted to the intelligence services, along with the research and analysis of information. […]
Therefore, Virtual Humint activities could enable democracies to tackle the multiple threats ever more asymmetric and hybrid of the Twenty-first century, including terrorism with non-conventional weapons, economic and financial threat with concealment and illegal transfer of capital abroad, regional wars, transnational organized crime, energy dependency, migratory flows which entail the dangers of terrorist infiltration by sea, the social distress (including the economic crisis, mafia associations and difficulties in finding a job), global pandemics, disposal of toxic waste and cybernetic threats.
Cyberspace is continuously changing and expanding and it has increasingly become significant as a place of confrontation between States. In this scenario, the “information business” is implemented not only by companies but also by foreign intelligence services, for the benefit of those Nations that can not afford to support the inevitably high costs associated with the initial research and development in the technological field. […]
Intelligence is an ordinary means existing in all countries, an indispensable function in any democracy, which plays a key role in the protection of the Nation, to serve the citizens and whose primary mission is to provide the decision-maker with the elements to pursue a consciously decision.
Anyway, the Intelligence Compartment is a secreted and unconventional means, where privacy is an inherent element. Strategic information must be understood not as good for a few, but as a collective good, especially in a global scenario where threats are becoming increasingly asymmetric and hybrid. Nonetheless, Intelligence becomes an instrument to which should be imposed its quality control through constant verification of its efficacy: psychological operations and covert propaganda, political and paramilitary operations of various types, operations aimed at destabilizing the economy of a dangerous Country […] are activities that require specific skills proven by appropriate university educations […] and that know how to find the right balance between the needs of realism and the respect for political and moral values.