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‘This Is What You’ll Get When You Mess With Us’

Material: Archival pigment print on Alu-Dibond

Dimensions: 1243mm x 1243mm

Year: 2018

How does a secretive state surveillance agency imagine itself in the digital age? What are the criteria by which it decides to make aspects of its secretive operations visible and for what purposes?

Comprised of the first nine images posted on GCHQ’s official Instagram channel between October – December 2018, this series examines a contemporary form of state-level propaganda. A range of typical scenes and images associated with corporate culture, nationalism and the modern office workplace are presented to the public to influence their perception of the institution. However does this series of images belie the true nature of the institution that they represent?

Often viewed on mobile devices and laptop computers, these images – alongside all other Instagram users’ published content and browsing activity – are systematically surveilled, copied and analysed by GCHQ as part of their global internet mass surveillance programme entitled ‘Karma Police’.

Named after a Radiohead song, the existence of “Karma Police” was revealed in leaked documents by whistleblower Edward Snowdon.  As of 2012, the programme was building profiles of all individuals online by scrutinising their web browsing habits and collating vast quantities of meta data – at a rate of 100 billion records a day, without any public knowledge, debate or scrutiny.