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MBIE seeks training on managing fake online personas

A government department has hired a security firm to train staff in using fake online personas to gather intelligence and build profiles on citizens.

the MBIE building

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment has signed a contract with Wellington based consultancy ZX Security.

The contract from December 2017 is published on the Ministry's website and outlines the details of the social media training course.

"The service provider will deliver an advanced social media training course to Ministry using false personas on social media for verification and investigation purposes," the contract says.

The contract states ministry staff would be trained to automatically "harvest" material from online platforms and other sources with minimal programming knowledge, identify trends, and spot a fake profile.

They've also been taught how to maintain multiple identities using "techniques for creating a backstop (history) for your online personas", send and receive anonymous text messages and emails, and analyse image metadata for location and other information.

"During this workshop the attendees will use the skills gained during the course to create a detailed dossier on a group or individual," the contract says.

It even includes training on how to identify people based on their usage of language.

The deal with ZX Security expires in 2021 and is worth $112,000 plus GST. The full or advanced classes were estimated at a cost of $6895 per 10 attendees, plus a fixed $840 fee for training outside Wellington.

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