David Ward examines the growing opportunities for security improvement provided by social media and mobile devices.
As reported by Risk UK’s Editor Brian Sims in his recent Editorial Comment entitled ‘Joining Forces’ (Risk UK, November 2015), the Government is setting aside £5 million to build a national network of grassroots organisations that will challenge all forms of extremist ideology. It makes sense that a fundamental part of any counter-extremism strategy should be to address the seeds from which extremism can grow.
It’s also right that efforts to do so should focus on the social online world, for this is where the messages and emotions of extremism reside, spread and grow.
The Internet is also where criminal activity is increasingly organised, much of it within the somewhat threatening Dark Web. This is a place where few decent people want to go, and it would be fair to assume the only people who do so are those with something to hide (or those chasing them).
However, outside of the Dark Web there are plenty of examples of criminal activity displayed online within social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, etc. From idiots who post videos of themselves breaking the speed limit to thieves proudly showing off what they’ve just stolen, these examples of lack of foresight are a gift to the police service who make a very public show of catching the somewhat dim-witted culprits.
There are also plenty of examples of other ways in which social media is used to aid the fight against crime, from regional police forces tweeting calls for information and mugshots through to people on Facebook sharing pictures of stolen bicycles. It all adds up to an increasingly effective form of ‘social policing’ that needs to be even more comprehensively embraced and refined.
Social aspect of security and policing
The social aspect of security and policing has perhaps never been more important. It has always been there, of course. One only has to think about the community ‘Bobby on the Beat’ to understand how effective and long-established the idea is, even in that most basic of forms.
However, in today’s world we’re all so much more empowered to take advantage of the tools around us which can be used to gather and disseminate information. Unfortunately, it can feel that the criminal element is always ahead of the game when it comes to taking advantage of technology, which perhaps suggests that the world of security has some way to go in order to reclaim lost ground.
Focusing once more on Brian Sims’ Editorial Comment, the title ‘Joining Forces’ accurately summarises the approach that needs to be taken. In all aspects of policing and security, including private security, the benefits of including a social element are clear. The Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications initiative, of which I’m chairman for the Southern Region, is a fine example of what can be achieved when organisations, agencies and businesses join forces in a managed spirit of co-operative working.
We shouldn’t think so much of organisations, agencies and businesses here, though, but instead of people, for that’s the true strength of the initiative which, due to the number of individuals involved and the additional information gathered, results in something which is so much greater than the sum of its constituent parts.
Embracing the idea
Moving away from the challenge of tackling serious and organised crime, the challenge for the private security business sector is to embrace the idea of social policing and work out how it can better use social media channels to strengthen the delivery of typical corporate security services.
This appears to be one area where the private security sector still has some work to do. While security has been vastly strengthened by technology, and is better organised and managed through the use of mobile devices and bespoke-developed software applications, there remains a gap which, once filled, will vastly improve the service and bring security supplier and client closer together.
This gap may be seen to be the place where information from company staff and other service employers can feed back to the security function, and where the security function can feed back to company staff. With many staff now working remotely and increasingly on their own mobile devices, communication within an organisation is not always as straightforward as it used to be, yet within that picture of the modern and rapidly evolving working environment, one constant remains: social media.
While security technology continues to evolve, and the security offer’s role broadens in scope to encompass new services, the social space will be where true innovation inevitably takes place. This is where the new modes of corporate service delivery will shortly start to appear to everybody’s benefit.
David Ward is CEO of Ward Security Holdings Ltd