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Assange: Facebook 'the Most Appalling Spy Machine' Ever 520

i4u points out an interview with Julian Assange in which the controversial WikiLeaks spokesman calls Facebook "the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented." He continues, "Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use. Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by US intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that US intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them."
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Assange: Facebook 'the Most Appalling Spy Machine' Ever

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:07PM (#36005600) Journal
    I suspect that the relatively brief period between the breakdown of the 'symmetric transparency' of village and smaller social groups and the rise of the 'asymmetric transparency' of rationalized, technocratic surveillance will be looked back upon as a curious historical anomaly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:08PM (#36005604)

    I choose not to be on Facebook because I don't want my friends to see me doing something embarrassing.

    I don't care what the faceless "agencies" know about me because I have nothing to hide from them, and it won't embarrass me if they know my dirty secrets, as long as they don't tell my dirty secrets to my friends.

  • Re:Yes, I know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:16PM (#36005686)

    >>>is considered a criminal by most of the people he's trying to help

    Well as he says, "Our No. 1 enemy is ignorance." Most of the people are simply ignorant of how they are being lied to by politicians, and controlled. - "And I believe that is the No. 1 enemy for everyone â" itâ(TM)snot understanding what actually is going on in the world. It's only when you start to understand that you can make effective decisions and effective plans. Now, the question is, who is promoting ignorance? Well, those organizations that try to keep things secret, and those organizations which distort true information to make it false or misrepresentative. In this latter category, it is bad media.

    "One of the hopeful things that Iâ(TM)ve discovered is that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could've stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn't reprinted government propaganda they could've stopped it. But what does that mean? Well, that means that basically populations don't like wars, and populations have to be fooled into wars. Populations don't willingly, with open eyes, go into a war. So if we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment."

    This man sounds a lot like Alex Jones.

  • by AnyoneEB ( 574727 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:29PM (#36006296) Homepage

    Since Facebook users volunteer up the information that pretty much makes it public information.

    Okay, so if I post information on Facebook (either editing my profile or posting a status) then I am voluntarily giving that information to Facebook, so that makes it public information? Even though I expect only people I have marked as friends to see such information by my privacy settings? What if I send a Facebook message? It has a clear "To" header like an e-mail; should that information be considered public? For that matter what about GMail? I am inputting information into a textbox on a website with the intent that (specific) other people will read that text. Should I therefore treat that text as public knowledge? For a physical analogue, suppose I write my text on paper (perhaps multiple copies) and put those pieces of paper into envelopes and send them to my friends via snail mail. I, once again, have written text and tendered it to a third-party for delivery to a specific set of private individuals. Should I still expect this text to be public?

    The United States has laws about privacy and due process. New technology should not make it so the government no longer has to follow due process in collecting private information on its citizens. Unfortunately, due to the nature of network effects, a lot of information gets concentrated in the hands of a few entities (in this case, Facebook) who do not necessarily have much interest in dealing with the government, so they simply freely hand over the information. I suppose privacy laws could be written to make it illegal for Facebook to hand over information about its users to the government, but it is not clear what such laws would even look like nor who would be supporting them.

    Seriously, I don't care if you know that I'm at the book store buying a coffee. If I don't want this information to be public I don't post it. Problem solved.

    You are right that a lot of this information actually is not that important. At the same time, I do not like the idea that law enforcement personnel can peer into my private life as recorded by various services I use without even having to justify the invasion of my privacy to a judge.

    Of course, see my sig: I dislike the idea of monolithic services that are able to collect such information and would prefer that social networking (and other) services be made up of collections of smaller separately administered nodes, each of which would have far less information. How to do that while still having a usable service is, unfortunately, an open problem.

  • The social graph is a very interesting thing to police and intelligence agencies. Just knowing who knows who can be very useful. That said, there are lots of dead-ends and rabbit trails on the social graphs....but it is a great place to start.
  • Re:Yeah, so? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:38PM (#36006360)

    It isn't as multi-layered as you would think. How much info can i find about you in 5 minutes?

    Hi paul. you are 29 years old, live in the Uk. work/have worked at a college doing computer-y stuff. You are a member of the pirate party in the uk which should narrow you down quite a bit. You might be a level 85 undead priest.

      I'm not saying you like to dress up in a fursuit, but...


    If I devoted more time to it I might find your facebook page, email address and photos. Now imagine if I had started from the opposite direction. Facebook has way more information that you think.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:46PM (#36006412) Journal
    Neither, really. While I'm not happy about it, I'm of the very strong suspicion that the trend toward increased ease and efficiency of automated surveillance is an inevitable byproduct of technological development. Particularly excessive emphasis (as in the famous case of East Germany) before the technology is mature can cause collapse; but substantial increases in surveillance capability come more or less for free with technological development.

    Unless one feels like scratching out a marginal existence somewhere so lousy that technological society considers the ROI to be not worth the effort, there isn't much to be done.(Unless the energy runs out. Then everybody gets an exciting lesson in what "nostalgia" means.)
  • by pgn674 ( 995941 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @11:10PM (#36007100) Homepage
    A tidbit: A couple months ago, I wrote some scripts to grab all my Facebook friends and their Facebook friends, and graph it. From my 256 Facebook friends and their Facebook friends, I get 76,538 different people. These degrees of separation explode quickly. And they make pretty graphs: Nifty Things: Facebook Friends Graph [blogspot.com]
  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @03:29AM (#36007896)

    I disagree. Your friends aren't generally going to post "Hey! Here's my friend's home phone number, since he neglected to put it up on his own info page!"

    Yeah, you'd never reply to a private message saying, "hey bud, what's your cell # again, i water damaged my phone and lost it...?" with anything except... "hey I'd tell you but I choose what to release on facebook. meet me at midnight in the graveyard and I'll tell you in person". right?

    And even inoccuous stuff like..."My son had fun at Natalie's 8th birthday on Saturday!" -- was your daughters birthdate something you wanted to provide facebook?

    Or "Hey, your Uncle Gord was a riot... check out this picture of him on the slip-n-slide at the party with the birthday girl"

    Ok... so the pic your friend posted has your uncle tagged...I see he's got a different last name from you... decent odds that's your mothers maiden name.

    Oh, and the pic contains your daughter too... along with a decent angle on your back yard. Couple that with the gps meta... and we know where your little girl lives, confirmed with google satellite view to help match the backyard.

    Your uncles profile happens to mentions how he's taking care of his father (your grandfather) with a[genetic condition that skips a generation], and deduce that you are at elevated risk for this condition.

    And that's just the start of the creepiness.

    But it was quickly clear that their lives and mine had practically nothing in common.)

    You could make that argument, but it'd be pretty clear that you were distant based on frequency and content of interaction, etc.

    but you don't need a social networking web site to accomplish that. In the "good old days", this same info was culled by private detectives and investigators who simply went out and talked to people who knew you or about you

    Correct. But someone had to hire a private detective to go out and talk to all these people, and follow you around.... one couldn't build profiles on more than a handful of people by hiring private detectives due to the cost.

    Reduce the cost to next to nothing, and the they will build profiles on everyone.

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