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Facebook being used to recruit spies

It has emerged that Britain's Secret Service has admitted to using Facebook to recruit tomorrow's James Bonds.

Web 2.0 activists keep repeating that there is no such thing as privacy. Now the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6 as it tends to be known in movies, has declared that it is using Web 2.0's finest creation, Facebook, in order to find new devotees.

A spokesperson for the UK's Foreign Office whispered: "The Secret Intelligence Service's open recruitment campaign continues to target wide pools of talent representative of British society today. A number of channels are used to promote job opportunities in the organisation. Facebook is a recent example."

This causes my brow to contort somewhat uncomfortably.

The whole ethos of spying seems to me to have, at its heart, a certain penchant for, well, covertness. When I was studying at one of the UK's more filmic universities, friends of mine would receive letters that suggested an "opportunity in the field of foreign trade" or some such discreet double parlance. They would then be invited to tea with a rather nondescript man whose pallid features would suggest he lived in a place called Nondies Crypt.

Will looks now help you get that dangerous mission to Uzbekistan? CC Alain Elorza

They would be told they would not be required to kill anyone and that their ability to read people and keep secrets was what would bond them to the Service.

Times have clearly changed. While James Bond continues to wear swimming attire that is at least one size too snug, MI6 is branching out into truly uncharted waters.

The ads themselves are deceptively simple. For example: "Time for a career change? MI6 can use your skills. Join us as an operational officer collecting and analysing global intelligence to protect the UK."

But there is already more of an MI6 presence on Facebook than you might have imagined.

Perhaps you, too, have perused Facebook's Secret Intelligence Service Group. It is now more than 700 strong. And the names of those interested are there for all to see.

The Group's blood pressure is already rising: "In a world of growing technology, hacking capability and information gathering...our government now see's fit to not only lose info, but to now display its potential applicant and employees details on one of the largest social networking sites in the world....oh yes, including full facial recognition for some of you too....," writes Andy Leavy from England's West Midlands.

Robyn-Elizabeth Tippetts (with that name, clearly a shoo-in), however, declares: "I want to apply, any advice on what I should be doing, education-wise? I will be going into University very soon."

I am concerned that MI6's rather avant-garde attempt to find the most diplomatically-forward recruits might not bear quite the most mentally-forward fruit.

As I mentioned not so long ago, Sir Edmund Bunton, the Chairman of the UK's Information Advisory Council, railed at the Facebook Generation's utter disregard for discretion. He declared young people's careless habits were responsible for the fact that the Ministry of Defense has lost 55 laptops (many left in cars overnight) in recent times.

On the other hand, perhaps this bold move signals the arrival of a new trend towards open, public, even socially-networked spying. Perhaps we are about to enjoy a new era of espionage, one in which we will observe the machinations of the covert live on our laptops, as if it were a never-ending Bourne Identity.

It will be interesting, indeed, to see how many of the new Facebook-sourced MI6 recruits will be unusually photogenic.