Posts Tagged ‘Electronic Frontier Federation’

Facebook, the Open Window of the Internet

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Facebook needs your information... How else are they going to show it to anyone who wants it?

I have an entire website to post to and people I don’t know personally will actually read those posts.

I’m not saying this to be vain or brag. I’m saying this because I have an outlet where I can rant and rave and whether people agree with what I am saying or not, I have the means to make my views and ideals very public. But why am I bringing this up?

Over the past couple of years, I have become increasingly social on the Internet. However, there are certain aspects of my life that I prefer to limit to my friends and family. If you were to see me on Facebook, you’d see that I often post up what could easily be considered toilet humor. I don’t necessarily believe that everyone should be subjected to it and so I keep my friends to those people I actually know.

Therein lies the problem. Over the course of the past two years, the information I have provided to Facebook in order to have my account with them has been increasingly difficult to keep on the downlow. And it only seems to be getting worse.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently posted up the changes to Facebook’s privacy policy since its launch back in 2005 (you can find that information here) and just the tone of the post conveys their concern in the apparent decreasing lack of concern that Facebook has for its users private information. It’s good reading and may help you to see where the recent concern about what Facebook is doing to people’s privacy has come from. And if you don’t want to take the time to read it, you can find a nice graphic here showing the timeline.

Make no mistake, there are certain aspects of my life and certain information about me that is available for anyone to see. I’ve certainly made no secret of my love of good times with good friends and good beverages. But I’ve also gone to lengths to keep certain portions of my life private, like who I’m dating or family matters I’d rather the world at large not have access to at the click of a mouse.

But that information is becoming harder to protect, so much so that in recent weeks I’ve actually considered deleting my Facebook account. A recent “adventure” with Facebook’s “privacy” settings in an attempt to secure my private data nearly led to a “rage delete”. Most certainly the tools Facebook offers to keep one’s information from prying eyes has become more and more difficult to comprehend, much less use. In fact, has posted up a fairly decent chart of how difficult is has become to keep your information out of the hands of third parties.

I’m certainly not a prude about my personal life. In fact, I’m often willing to discuss it with perfect strangers. But more often than not, that discussion is an attempt to make them uncomfortable so they’ll move away from me. Handy in movie theatres, I assure you.

My point here is that as a social networking site, Facebook seems to be working very hard to get me to share my information with people and companies I know nothing about. There is no means for me to be able to know who is looking at my info since now, and I love this one, you can set up all the privacy you want but if that friend of yours who hasn’t logged on in over a year doesn’t pop on and change some of the settings on their account, your information may still be available and completely out of your control.

Think I’m exaggerating? This is a blurb in the privacy settings on Facebook:

“Please keep in mind that if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.”

I’m going to make an admission here. I used to go out and try to find new applications that Crutchboy and Timothy Danger hadn’t blocked yet. They hate all the updates from your mafia, your farm, or whatever the hell you’re playing on Facebook. Yeah, yeah, I’m a jerk. It amused me though and that’s what mattered.

I don’t do that anymore after reading the information above. Sounds too much like I could be publicizing other people’s information because I laughed when one of my friends asked me when the hell I got anything done with all the dumb games I was playing on Facebook. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to help contribute to this privacy issue.

Look, I’m not trying to create panic here, I’m not trying to say Facebook is evil but it certainly does seem that in their attempt to monetize their application and cash in on their popularity that they’re opening the door for the complete de-privatization of the public at large. Check it out for yourself and see what you think about their privacy guidelines now.

When you do, you may decide there may be such a thing as too social.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

FBI = FaceBook Investigators… Who knew?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Your new "friend" on FaceBook might have ulterior motives...

Last week, an internal Justice Department document was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Federation, a San Francisco based civil liberties group. The document outlines and makes clear how U.S. agents are following the social networking trend and using sites like FaceBook and MySpace in order to gather information in ongoing investigations.

The 33 page document goes on to stress the importance of using social networking sites to track suspects in those investigations to allow authorities to more easily check alibis or look for suspicious photos that may demonstrate an unusual spending spree after a crime. Analyzing evidence in this manner may allow agents to establish times and locations of suspects simply by looking through users’ uploaded photos.

It wasn’t that long ago that agents kept any eye on chat rooms such as AOL in an attempt to apprehend sexual predators but in this day and age, it’s much easier to analyze data like videos, pictures, or even audio clips posted via social networking sites to look for patterns of behavior. Already authorities have began using the information to track suspects’ whereabouts in order to apprehend them.

The documents, while detailing the worth of existing social networking sites in order to procure information from/on suspects, do not go into detail in regards to how to use the sites. And that is where the concern of the Electronic Frontier Federation lies.

Without guidelines in place, where does the line get drawn? Should agents be allowed to impersonate a parent, child, or sibling, for instance, in order to gain a suspect’s trust? How is evidence to be handled when the information may have been obtained through a chat session on FaceBook? How can it be determined that the information was indeed provided by the suspect and not from someone impersonating them?

These questions and more are being raised by the Federation in the hopes that the government will establish a set of rules in order to prevent potential abuse of the sites in investigations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has stated that it will make the documents available on its website tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

So be careful, wrongdoers. The next friend you add on MySpace might just be a federal agent.

Gritskrieg – End of Line