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Tunisian Gov't Spies On Facebook; Does the US? 221

Posted by timothy
from the bet-you-a-few-lire dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Tunisians logging into Facebook encountered extra JavaScript, probably a sign of their repressive government's attempt to spy on them. The question is: does the US government do the same thing, just more subtly? We're not talking about agents friending you on Facebook to get more information about you; we're talking monitoring your supposedly private information behind the scenes."
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Tunisian Gov't Spies On Facebook; Does the US?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @10:51PM (#34843782)

    Not true. HTTPS works quite well against a rouge ISP. Where it fails is with a rogue Certificate Authority willing to sign bogus certificates. If you can get a CA to sign your bogus certificate, then you can execute a main-in-the-middle attack against HTTPS.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @11:04PM (#34843874) Homepage Journal

    There's a reason that almost all browsers have controls to enable/disable java and/or javascript. Programmers who have used these languages normally understand why you don't want your browser to automatically execute code downloaded from strangers, and browse with "scripting" disabled. Maybe we can teach others to do the same. If you tell us here which browser(s) you use, we can probably tell you where the controls are to turn off the execution of outside code. If you browser doesn't allow this, you should probably use a different browser.

    Some browsers, such as firefox, have the ability to enable/disable scripting selectively for specific sites. Those browsers are much safer than the others.

    (And to the geeks here: Yes, I know you know all that. I'm talking to the large part of the population who don't seem to know it. This obviously includes whoever wrote TFA. ;-)

  • Supposedly Private? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @11:42PM (#34844144)

    We're talking monitoring your supposedly private information behind the scenes

    Well, here's the thing about US law (for better or worse, I'm just explaining it as I understand how it actually operates) is that there is no constitutional reasonable expectation of privacy in Facebook stuff, since my assumption you have already shared it with others (if only Facebook Inc). This is called "the third party doctrine", since it covers only information that an individual has voluntarily disclosed some third (non-government) entity. See, e.g. United States v. Miller (1976):

    The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information
    revealed to a third party and conveyed by him to Government authorities,
    even if the information is revealed on the assumption that it will be used
    only for a limited purpose and the confidence placed in the third party will
    not be betrayed.

    The long and short of this is that the act of transmitting to Facebook establishes that you have no REP in whatever you transmit. A lot of ink has been spilled in debating the doctrine, both legally and normatively but that's past the scope of this post so I'll just point you to an article criticizing [lexisnexis.com] the doctrine and one defending [michiganlawreview.org] it. Both contain excellent overviews of the law and the surrounding doctrinal argument.

    More interestingly, however, Congress stepped in to provide even more protection than the Court when it passed the Stored Communications Act [wikipedia.org] that provides an intermediate level of scrutiny past the normal scrutiny that attaches to any criminal subpoena[1]. In the SCA, Congress requires the government to prove "specific and articulable facts" that the information is relevant and material to a criminal investigation. That would be the standard applicable to a subpoena to Facebook.

    Of course, if Facebook wanted to disclose information voluntarily, that would be well covered by the Third Party Doctrine (as it exists) except to the extent prohibited by the Facebook TOS.

    [1] That would be, approximately, 'reasonable possibility that the materials sought will produce information relevant to the investigation'. See, e.g. United States v. R. Enterprises (1991) and FRCP 17.

    [2] 18 U.S.C. 2703(d) [cornell.edu].

  • by ntk (974) * on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @03:30AM (#34845436) Homepage

    Tunisia was blocking https connections to www.facebook.com.

  • Re:Tell that to... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcvos (645701) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @04:56AM (#34845790)

    According to recent news, not to mention speeches from politicians, the US seems to be soundly in the "ammo" stage now.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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