UK spy agency joins Instagram

Move part of MI5's push for greater transparency

Karim El-Bar   | 22.04.2021
UK spy agency joins Instagram


As part of a transparency drive, the UK's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, launched its official Instagram account on Thursday.

Alongside promoting career opportunities, the account – @mi5official – will be hosting question and answer sessions with serving intelligence officers.

It will also share historical exhibits from the MI5 museum, located in the basement of the agency’s London headquarters, for the very first time, along with previously unseen archive footage.

Ken McCallum, 45, who took over the reins as the agency’s youngest director-general last April, told local media a few months later that he wanted to “reach out in new ways,” especially to younger people.

On Thursday, he penned the first-ever opinion piece by an MI5 chief for a national newspaper.

Referring to James Bond, he wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “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 based on perceived barriers.”

McCallum said he wanted to make sure people were not discouraged from joining MI5 due to their “socio-economic background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability, or which part of the country they happen to have been born in.”

“I was once one of those myself; growing up in Glasgow, it never crossed my mind that I’d end up working in national security, never mind in a senior role,” he wrote.

“In an increasingly open and connected world, MI5, and any forward-thinking intelligence organization, faces a dilemma. On the one hand, our ability to serve the public and keep the country safe depends critically on operating covertly,” he continued.

“But the other half of the dilemma is that MI5's ability to keep the country safe and resilient also depends on our reaching out to others who can help us, and whom we, in turn, can help.”

He stressed the need for the agency “to be constantly striving to learn and improve.”

“In our fast-moving world, with technology advancing at incredible speed, it would be dangerous vanity to imagine MI5 can build all the capabilities it needs inside its own bubble,” he said.

McCallum, who has previously been critical of social media, wrote that tech giants have to do more to “combat damaging State-backed disinformation, and to ensure that terrorists cannot use their platforms to plot or encourage terrorist acts.”

He did, however, praise social media’s ability to keep people connected, saying it was particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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