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Private intelligence agency
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. Some private intelligence agencies obtain information deceptively or through on-the-ground activities for clients.
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.
Some private intelligence agencies use online perception management, social media influencing/manipulation campaigns, strategic disinformation (such as fake news production/propaganda production), opposition research and political campaigns using social media and artifical intelligence such as Psy-Group, Cambridge Analytica and Black Cube. The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab described the activity of Archimedes Group as practicing "information warfare".
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.
Private intelligence agencies have also been seen in fiction. Rubicon, a TV series from AMC, was devoted to the intelligence consultancy American Policy Institute (API). In the Kingsman franchise, we see the inner workings of Kingsman, a private intelligence service of which main character Eggsy is a member. In Season 5 of the spy-thriller series Covert Affairs, we see the CIA contract missions to a private military company called McQuaid Security which Annie Walker eventually joins.
List of private intelligence companies by continent
- NORTH AMERICA
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