keeping an eye on the Kingdom's PR
Nature of Business: Corporate intelligence gathering and "reputation management"
One Wood Street
London. EC2V 7WS (map)
|Fees and Expenses: $245,523|
Relationship with Bahrain Government
Olton Ltd is a company based in London (until recently Bristol) founded by Paul Manister, a former Senior Intelligence Analyst in the UK Navy. The company describes itself as a corporate intelligence consultancy that "specialises in the exploitation, collection, collation and fusion of Open Source Information."
According to the list of April 2011 tender awards posted on the website of the government of Bahrain's Tender Board, Olton was awarded a two-month contract extension to work for Bahrain's Economic Development Board. The stated job was "to develop an electronic system to track international media." The stated payment for the two months of work was BD 49,000 (US$ 129,850). In April 2012, it was awarded an extension on a separate contract with the Bahrain Petroleum Company for BD 43,650 (US$ 115,673).
However Olton's relationship with the Bahrain government goes back beyond April 2011, as the tender award listed above is an extension of an earlier contract. Moreover, in May 2011, an employee of Bahrain's Ministry of Interior left the following recommendation on LinkedIn for Olton's Managing Director Mark Calter on LinkedIn (which was removed after being publicized):
Another LinkedIn profile (Personal info redacted on [9/5/2015] upon request of the former Olton employee. You can contact us for more info) suggests that Olton's relationship with Bahrain goes back to 2008 - 2009, when they developed PR communication strategies for the Royal Family:
It is not clear what Olton's work for the Ministry of Interior involved. However, in the Middle East, Olton has been heavily marketing a software solution that digs up and collates information from the Internet quickly. In Olton's own words, it is a 'web-trawling' technology that they have named 'ORA'.
In 2008, the founder Paul Manister, and two other Olton employees, filed for a U.S. patent for a technology that does something similar. In the section about examples of uses of the technology, the patent applicants wrote (page 15, para 0170):
"Security agencies may apply this capability to their efforts to detect and track insurgent activity, and provide a mechanism for operatives to pool and share their knowledge in a secure and controlled way."
On its website, Olton claims to be the "leaders in understanding the influential, modern 'Web 2.0' media, such as Twitter, Facebook and web forums, and their ever-morphing variations." In line with this, the "reputation management" services offered by Olton include:
This identifies: who the real protagonists are and who they know; who has the real influence and over which key audiences; and, what their likely intentions are. From this we assess what risks and opportunities they pose.
Deep Research investigates influential players, across the spectrum from journalists and think tanks, through activists and bloggers, to politicians and officials. It aims to provide a deep baseline understanding of likely behaviour and outcomes.
Internet Profile Management
This procedure is sometimes called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It is designed to optimise a client's internet profile. It is not just about promoting the positive, but also mitigating negative online commentary.
Fees and Expenses
Total not clear, but two separate contract extensions were worth a total of BD 92,650 ($245,523)
Date of Hiring
Olton was awarded a two-month contract extension in April 2011 by Bahrain's Economic Development Board. Relationship with government may go back before 2009.
- Paul Manister, CEO and founder
- Mark Calter, managing director
- Bahrain Tender Board: Awarded tenders of April 2011, (see item no. 131)
- Bahrain Tender Board: Awarded tenders of April 2012 (see item no 22)
- U.S. Patent Application: Apparatus and Method for Document Processing (Paul Manister, Nic Hann & Chris Prosse), application number: 12/738,157, publication number: US 2010/0241620 A1, Sep 19, 2008
- The Next Web: Is a British firm helping Bahrain's Ministry of Interior monitor online activity?, Nov 10, 2011
- Chan'ad Bahraini: British intelligence gathering firm assists Bahraini regime amidst crackdown, Nov 10, 2011
- AMEInfo.com: The Ora Platform delivered by Olton, Microsoft and Dell, Feb 23, 2011