Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Social Networks

Eben Moglen: Social Networking "Creating Systems of Comprehensive Surveillance" 236

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the look-ma-i'm-breaking-the-law dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Eben Moglen, founder of the Freedombox project, has taken to yelling at journalists reporting about social networks. One wonders if this messaging will work to end proprietary, centralized social networks or not."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Eben Moglen: Social Networking "Creating Systems of Comprehensive Surveillance"

Comments Filter:
  • Moglen is right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhoegl (638955) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:05PM (#38646690)
    Moglen is right, and that reporter is a moron.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Well, he was being a bit of an ass about it, but he is completely right. I've resisted the urge to make a FB page or on any other site and I had been reconsidering it lately. Not to put much information up, but to coordinate things, but it's been a couple months and I can't get over the what Moglen is on about in this article. I just can't stand the idea of being a part of the problem.

      I've contemplated in the past creating a FB account with no personal information just so that I can like random things for p

      • by DrXym (126579)
        I have a FB account but I use it mainly to subscribe to feeds of companies. I have no real "friends" on there, just feeds. I like it that way. Even if someone were to bust into my account the amount of information about me is superficial and inconsequential. I also feel some comfort from living in Europe where there are some data protection and privacy laws in place to hold Facebook's feet to the fire if it came to it.

        Personally I think if people want social media and don't want it "mined" then they're sh

    • Re:Moglen is right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:24PM (#38646826) Homepage Journal

      Mr. Moglen: Okay, so have you closed your Facebook account and stopped using Twitter?
      Reporter: Have...I?
      Mr. Moglen: Yes, you!
      Reporter: No, I can't!

      Yup.

      Reporter can't what? Can't keep in touch with people via e-mail and telephone calls? Can't restrict online vanity to anonymous postings? Can't learn lessons they should have learned back in the MySpace and Classmates days? Can't gain reputability with a pseudonym like Jolly Roger or Ethanol-fueled?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Moglen is right, and that reporter is a moron.

      The reporter is actually a troll.

    • by syousef (465911)

      Moglen is right, and that reporter is a moron.

      So is the submitter with the description "has taken to yelling at journalists reporting about social networks". What are we? 12? We can no longer use the word 'criticizing' instead of 'yelling at'??? Was he speaking too loudly in the lecture?

      Not all social networkers are idiots. Many if not most know they're trading privacy for the privilege of connecting with their friends. Most even know there are possible unintended consequences, and most moderate what they say on a social network.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        So is the submitter with the description "has taken to yelling at journalists reporting about social networks". What are we? 12? We can no longer use the word 'criticizing' instead of 'yelling at'??? Was he speaking too loudly in the lecture?

        You should read instead of just looking at the pictures. "Yelling" was the reporter's own description, and there was no lecture involved; he called Moglen on the phone.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:19PM (#38646782) Homepage

    It seems to me the most germane question the reporter asked was, "What's the damage?" And Moglen failed spectacularly to answer it in anything approaching a coherent way.

    Gotcha: If I happen to upload pictures of a couple of my friends (I generally don't) and those friends, unbeknownst to me, happen to be on the run from the Myanmar secret police (who are "evil"), then I've informed on them and they're going straight to the Ministry of Love.

    Coulda used a slightly more concrete, real-world example, myself, by hey, I'll keep the warning in mind.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:46PM (#38646996)

      The problem with privacy loss is that you don't know what the damage is until it's too late. I don't personally have a FB account or account on other social networking sites because I value my privacy. But, that doesn't mean that there aren't photos of me online that other people posted, I personally have no control over that and by the time I find out that I've been harmed it's too late to do anything about it.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      The guy that pissed off Anonymous, Aaron Barr, claimed to having identified some Anon "members" by matching facebook and other activity (timing and context, mostly).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If I happen to upload pictures of a couple of my friends (I generally don't) and those friends, unbeknownst to me, happen to be on the run from the Myanmar secret police (who are "evil"), then I've informed on them and they're going straight to the Ministry of Love.

      Coulda used a slightly more concrete, real-world example, myself, by hey, I'll keep the warning in mind.

      The probability that your friends are, unbeknownst to you, on the run from the Myanmar secret police, or that they are secret freedom fighters waging an important campaign to end the tyranny of some evil regime, is approximately as great as the probability that your friends are terrorists/bank robbers/criminal masterminds and in some way deserving of arrest. Neither of these greatly exceeds the probability that they are also race car drivers or test pilots with sixteen inch pleasure tools. The latter is a

    • Something like:

      You post a happy snap taken at a cafe on Facebook. In the background someone you don't know, call her Bloggs, is seen talking to a known head hunter. Bloggs' employer has paid in to the facial recognition service, sees that Bloggs is talking to the "enemy", decides that loyalty is lacking in Bloggs, and terminates her employment. Bloggs can no longer support her family and ultimately her mortgage is foreclosed. Bloggs has no idea how they found out, and was only having an innocent coffee with a lifelong friend anyway. Your privacy has not been violated but you have supported the destruction of someone else's life. Now imagine if I took the photo and you were having a coffee with a rival newspaper editor...

      might have prompted more thought

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Situation One (Bloggs): There are two companies here, Facebook and Bloggs' employer. Which one is actually the problem, Facebook for hosting an image and indexing it, or Bloggs' employer for being paranoid and abusive? The proximate cause of Bloggs' misfortune is the company that spies on its employees, not the company that facilitated that spying. If Bloggs were to sue someone, it would be the proximate cause of her distress, which is the wrongful termination she has suffered at the hands of a company t

        • by dr2chase (653338)

          Nope, sorry. Facebook (and careless use of Facebook) empowers these abusive jerks. Actually doing the legwork to figure out why you were fired and getting damages out of the ultimately responsible party is hard work and far from likely to succeed. In a world of infinite free time and free legal services, sure, Facebook's not to blame, but we don't live in that world.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Might have prompted more thought, yes -- for example, my first thought was, "Wrongful termination lawsuit, ka-chiiing!"

        So far, you're really not helping make the case here. Your example scenario is just more paranoid fantasy thinking based on a world that does not resemble the one we actually live in. You can say, "Yeah, but what if?" -- but I don't even see any evidence of a slippery slope toward what you describe. It just does not sound plausible to me.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Better example: you post a picture taken at a cafe on Flickr. In the background is the cute girl you just met. Your camera silently geotags the photo with GPS coordinates, showing the bar where you and this girl regularly hang out, and with a date telling when the photo was taken, hinting at when she would likely be in the bar next.

        You find out the next week that the girl was in the witness protection program because of her abusive ex-boyfriend. Somehow, he managed to figure out what city she was in, and

        • by azalin (67640)
          I'm not sure if these "very realistic" scenarios help explaining the problem, or label those concerned as nut-jobs.
          In my opinion it boils down to asking yourself a few questions like "Are you proud of EVERYTHING you did from your early teen years till now?" "Did you ever do anything that could be misinterpreted?" "Is there anything in my past I wouldn't want my boss, mum, mother in law, neighbor, employees etc. to see?"
          No one will ask questions or give the benefit of doubt if the story is more interesting
          • by Nursie (632944)

            xkcd 137 - fuck that shit [xkcd.com]

            Not a very grown up way of expressing it perhaps, but I couldn't agree more with the feeling behind it.

            I'm in no going to claim I'm way proud of everything I've ever done, but neither am I going to live my life pretending to be someone else.

            I've probably ruled myself out of politics by now, but I did that through my actions (I had the damned cheek to enjoy myself when I was young, law and social/sexual mores be damned) not through social media. What's going to be really interesting

            • by dr2chase (653338)

              But on the other hand, WTF was Anthony Weiner thinking?

              • by Nursie (632944)

                There's a difference somewhere between having some fun in your youth and being a total (47 year old, public-office holding) sleazeball!

                I may have done some things in my time, but sending pictures of my cock to women 20 years my junior wasn't one of them....

    • by rossjudson (97786)

      Let's say that you get into an argument with the IRS. To make double-triple sure that they're figuring out the whole situation, they decide to use social media searches to determine everyone who is or might be a business partner of yours, and investigate them as well. After being investigated, one of your business partners notes on FB that because YOU were being investigated, HE got investigated. And that's on your wall, or whatever.

      Good luck running your business now!!

  • Spectacular! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killfixx (148785) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:20PM (#38646802) Journal

    I teach different college level IT courses and Moglen's sentiments are always part of "Intro" courses.

    RMS and Moglen, who would've guessed, 10 years ago, they'd be right?

    Paranoia, it's not just for the fringe anymore.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      RMS and Moglen, who would've guessed, 10 years ago, they'd be right?

      Paranoia, it's not just for the fringe anymore.

      Too late now, as it no longer matters if you are paranoid or not.... they are after you anyway.

      • Re:Spectacular! (Score:5, Informative)

        by AHuxley (892839) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:58PM (#38647074) Homepage Journal
        Yes http://wikileaks.org/wiki/EU_social_network_spy_system_brief,_INDECT_Work_Package_4,_2009 [wikileaks.org]
        "learn relationships between people and organizations through websites and social networks."
        i.e. hunt weblogs, chat sites, news reports, and social networking sites create automatic dossiers on individuals.
      • > Too late now, as it no longer matters if you are paranoid or not.... they are after you anyway.

        Yes 'they' are after you. However, you don't have to give your consent to them hoovering up every last piece of info about you (which you pretty much do with Facebook, since FB can be compelled to spill the beans to anyone who needs the information under subpeona, or any of the dodgy laws that have recently been enacted).

        What many posters have not grokked is something that is wrong with the pervasive surv

      • Too late now, as it no longer matters if you are paranoid or not.... they are after you anyway.

        Wisdom from a bathroom wall, read many years ago:

        "The fact that you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you."

    • Paranoia, it's not just for the fringe anymore.

      Why it makes for a nice soundbite, I think that people who call it paranoia have it wrong. Remember, RMS started GNU and the FSF _after_ They came after him: http://poynder.blogspot.com/2006/03/interview-with-richard-stallman.html [blogspot.com]

  • Eben Moglen (Score:5, Informative)

    by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:25PM (#38646830)

    Really, Freedombox? I'd never heard of that project before now, but I have most definitely heard of Professor Eben Moglen. I know him as the Chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, providing legal assistance to non-profit Free/Open Source Software developers, including among its clients the FSF (Moglen worked on drafting the GPLv3 for one), Wine, BusyBox, and Plone among others. I do think that this is a much more significant thing to mention about him.

    And yes, he is absolutely right about Facebook and modern social media. All of the things he's said are obvious to anyone.

    • Freedom Box is his latest project. He gave a (quite bad, actually) talk about it at FOSDEM last year and it's been on Slashdot a couple of times. The idea is to produce a cheap plug computer that can run email, chat, and so on services and provides hosting for picture and movie sharing - basically, provide all of the useful features of social networking, but provide them with completely distributed user-controlled implementations in an off-the-shelf package that people with can just buy, take home, plug i

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Problem is, I don't necessarily trust that little box. Nothing is really important except the FOSS package. The rest can be solved by any integrator[s].

  • by Beeftopia (1846720) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:25PM (#38646838)
    When I first got on the Internet in the early 90s, it was the height of folly to put your personal information online.

    Nothing I've seen in the intervening years has changed my opinion about that.
  • disinformation (Score:3, Informative)

    by rot26 (240034) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:29PM (#38646864) Homepage Journal
    The solution is simple; lower the signal-to-noise ratio. During the early cold war years, they did that by radio jamming. Nowadays spam serves that purpose (intentionally or not). Instead of closing your FB account, create 5 fake ones, and stuff them full of crap.
  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:33PM (#38646896)
    I remain skeptical. I'm a regular FB poster, and not even FB can target ads to me that I care about. I'm a married man so I get ads about meeting women and ovulation tests. I live in Vancouver and I've just finished a big house renovation, so I get ads for extended-stay suites IN Vancouver. Where's this big 'tracking' conspiracy if not even the mothership can get it right?
    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @01:16AM (#38647564) Homepage

      I remain skeptical. I'm a regular FB poster, and not even FB can target ads to me that I care about.

      I've done it. I worked for an online advertising company in San Francisco. They were all about human-based targeting, done by our placement specialists. I wanted to show them what collaborative filtering could do, so I wrote a running an algorithm similar to what Netflix uses. Ran it in a one month randomized A/B test against ads targeted by our pros using demographics. For every dollar they sold during the run, I sold 3.8 dollars.

    • I remain skeptical. I'm a regular FB poster, and not even FB can target ads to me that I care about.

      You have the risk model backwards. Targeted advertising is not much of a risk to the people viewing the advertising. Maybe they are suckered out of a few more dollars, and that's shitty but not anything new.

      The problem comes when the goal is to pull information on a specific individual - someone who, for whatever reason, has become a person of interest. At that point every single piece of data that has ever been associated with that person will be examined in excruciating detail in order to gain some sor

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      not even FB can target ads to me that I care about. I'm a married man so I get ads about meeting women and ovulation tests.

      You clearly have more faith in your own behavior than Facebook does. What exactly have you been clicking on?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:39PM (#38646940)

    proprietary, centralized social networks or no

    The entire history of the internet is one of moving from open and decentralized facilities to proprietary and central authorities.

    IM: IRC -> a ton of separate proprietary apps
    Discussions: usenet -> a ton of separate web-forum fiefdoms
    Email: RFC based email -> proprietary solutions on facebook and so on
    Personal web pages -> using central proprietary services like facebook

    This all seems idiotic and totally the wrong direction to me, but there's no way of denying the fact that for whatever reason, Joe Sixpack prefers a more authoritarian and more proprietary approach to the internet, as opposed to a more equal/peer-to-peer and open-standard approach.

    • This all seems idiotic and totally the wrong direction to me, but there's no way of denying the fact that for whatever reason, Joe Sixpack prefers a more authoritarian and more proprietary approach to the internet, as opposed to a more equal/peer-to-peer and open-standard approach.

      The proprietary product designed for the masses replaced jany number of argon-filled apps with clumsy UIs that only the techie ever found easy to use.

    • proprietary, centralized social networks or no

      The entire history of the internet is one of moving from open and decentralized facilities to proprietary and central authorities.

      What's amusing is that these are the companies that are speaking out against SOPA, because "it will destroy the internet as we know it".

    • I think you have most of these back to front:

      Instant messaging began with Quantum Link, which eventually became AOL Instant Messenger. ICQ was big, then MSN and Yahoo joined the party. Then there was XMPP, an open, federated, protocol (used, among other things, by Google Talk). IRC and IM don't really fit in the same category - IM is for one-to-one communication, IRC is one-to-many. And I've not seen anything replacing IRC - it's still very actively used.

      Email began with BBS email, where each server

      • by wdef (1050680)

        Web pages, I'm not so sure about. Things like Facebook and MySpace grew quickly, but they still account for a tiny fraction of the total web.

        Tiny is arguable. Facebook, with over 800 million users, has succeeded in walling off a significant chunk of the web where AOL and MSN failed.

  • by neonsignal (890658) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:44PM (#38646982)

    moglen: the users are the victims and even the stuff you write which purports to be critical will do everything except telling people the central fact, which is they have to stop using.

    reporter: I think that’s totally relevant and will definitely put it in. (N.B.: In the end, I did not put this in the story for several reasons, not the least of it was the fact that it was late and over word limit.)

  • Alienating reporters is a sure-fire way of getting your cause, no matter how good, totally disrespected. Even if they understand you, they never forgive.

    In the long run, there are softer vectors to attack than social networking. A lot of these fears would apply equally well to private social platforms which were not encrypted, just the NSA etc. would have to scrape the data off the wires rather than having nice databases to mine. But the paydirt is still VISA and tax records and face recognition tied to pas

  • The good thing about social networking is being able to share. Unfortunately, the bad thing about social networking is also being able to share: what is shared will always inevitably include "actionable" details about either you or people with whom you have relationships.

    What does Moglen propose to this woman and reporter as a solution to the problem? Why, that she and by extension everyone else simply not network, not share, perhaps not even have relationships... because the logical conclusion of those relationships is always the sharing of information that might prove useful to someone else for control or profit.

    While I'm enough of an outcast that I can almost vaguely begin to follow Moglen's directive, most of the people in my life network couldn't. They don't want to exist in a social vacuum, nor could they even psychologically survive in a such a fashion.

    The real conundrum here, which Moglen seems to ignore for convenience, is that when information is set free then that information is now free for everyone, for any purpose or intent, good or bad. I wonder... is what Moglen proposes, in terms of attempting to control and censor one's own information, really that different from a copyright regime? The only difference is who is doing the controlling. Ultimately it's all about self-interest, whether it's using information to do harm to others or concealing information in order to avoid harm from others. Why, isn't that precisely the reason that people and corporations and governments keep secrets, to avoid that information being used to their detriment by others? What a coincidence! So Moglen, in a paroxysm of epiphany, declares that rather than doing away with all secrets we should instead be keeping more of them? Genius!

    Perhaps the solution is to live such a virtuous life that no skeletons, no actionable information, exists? Social networking is the small-town paradigm applied to the Internet: there's no point in trying to hide what you know or what you've done, because *everyone* will know about it soon enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The good thing about social networking is being able to share .... Why, that she and by extension everyone else simply not network, not share, perhaps not even have relationships...

      The entire nature of the internet allows sharing. This does not require proprietary social networking sites. It does not require letting somebody else sell your privacy for profit.

      News flash for the younger sorts: back in the 80's before there was even the *web* let alone facebook, we were communicating online with our friends and family. Today, there are much more sophisticated means available, but still which do not have anything to do with facebook.

      Where did this massive worldwide brainwashing come fr

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      What does Moglen propose to this woman and reporter as a solution to the problem? Why, that she and by extension everyone else simply not network, not share, perhaps not even have relationships... because the logical conclusion of those relationships is always the sharing of information that might prove useful to someone else for control or profit.

      Actually, Eben did not propose that she not network. He proposed that she not network using Facebook or Twitter.

      The real conundrum here, which Moglen seems to ign

    • by Kjella (173770)

      It seems you don't understand the difference between private and public communication. There's no such thing as real private communication on Facebook, it's always a three way conversation between you, the other person and Facebook. And possibly identity thieves, snoopers, hackers, three letter agencies and whatever lurks the Internets. Private communication should be point-to-point between the parties I want to network with, okay so it's not entirely true since I do need phone companies and ISPs and email

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:04AM (#38647126) Homepage Journal

    If the data is available from a website, the government can crawl it. robots.txt is a polite request not to search the content of a website, not a physical lock or encryption.

    It may be EASIER for the governments to find "miscreants" on social networks because they're all in one database and more easily scanned, but that definitely doesn't mean you're safe from prying eyes ANYWHERE on the internet. If you post it where others can read it, the three-letter agencies can, will, and DO read it.

    Privacy on the internet is an illusion, nothing more. It has alway been so, will always be so, and cannot be otherwise if people are to share information.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      That's not to say customer data can't or shouldn't be protected. I'm talking about SHARED CONTENT, not data security.

      In theory you could encrypt everyone's posts in a secure forum, hash their logins, hide their names, and "protect" them from surveillance. I'm surprised no one has done it yet.

      But it goes against the original core design goal of DARPA, who created the internet: a tool for exchanging and sharing information.

      Not hiding it.

    • by migla (1099771)

      If the data is available from a website, the government can crawl it. robots.txt is a polite request not to search the content of a website, not a physical lock or encryption.

      It may be EASIER for the governments to find "miscreants" on social networks because they're all in one database and more easily scanned, but that definitely doesn't mean you're safe from prying eyes ANYWHERE on the internet. If you post it where others can read it, the three-letter agencies can, will, and DO read it.

      Privacy on the internet is an illusion, nothing more. It has alway been so, will always be so, and cannot be otherwise if people are to share information.

      Using Facebook and pals, even the stuff you set "private" may end up being crawled and mined by commercial interests or governments.

      If you build a decentralised social network by connecting to your friends over encrypted connections, the stuff meant for friends can't be seen by anyone else. (Your friends may, of course, further distribute any information about you they have been given access to, even if you haven't made it completely public.)

      If you host your totally private (as in not even accessible by fr

  • by xav_jones (612754) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:30AM (#38647302)
    Just read the headline which reminded me of this case of 'surveillance' helping to solve a crime! Police Slog Through 40,000 Insipid Party Pics To Find Cause Of Dorm Fire [theonion.com]
  • PhotoDNA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ka9dgx (72702) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:31AM (#38647308) Homepage Journal

    I've been using Picassa on my PC, which includes facial recognition, the interesting part is the hundreds of people who I have know knowledge of who appear large enough to be recognized and grouped together, merely because they happened to be near someone or something I was photographing.

    The news that Facebook is scanning all photo uploads with similar technology really makes me cringe.

    Eben is right, and he's NOT paranoid... just ahead of the curve.

  • p2p Facebook clone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mfnickster (182520) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:45AM (#38647388)

    Has anyone started a p2p social network that could replace facebook?

    Something like, I dunno, Usenet but with Web content and your cached updates are encrypted with your public key?

  • ...that nibbles at Facebook is A Good Thing. We need to destroy Facebook before it destroys too much of us, and our social interaction.
  • So the only way he can tell people to get off of them is by going around yelling it.

    He's right, but he's also a crazy neckbeard who shares RMS's talent for alienating anyone who doesn't already agree with him in every particular. With friends like that, the FSF hardly needs enemies.

RADIO SHACK LEVEL II BASIC READY >_

Working...