"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Online Surveilance’

Google Transparency Report Shows U.S. Gov’t Surveillance, Requests For Removal Of Information From Internet On The Rise In 2012

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oldspeak:”Totalitarianism is not only hell, but all the dream of paradise– the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another. Andre Breton, too, dreamed of this paradise when he talked about the glass house in which he longed to live. If totalitarianism did not exploit these archetypes, which are deep inside us all and rooted deep in all religions, it could never attract so many people, especially during the early phases of its existence. Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way. and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger and more perfect, while the adjoining paradise gets even smaller and poorer.” -Milan Kundera In a totalitarian state, there is ever more surveillance, ever more restriction of acceptable thought, ever more disappearance of  ‘undesirable’ information. And people (like Samir Khan, Anwar-Al Awlaki and his 16 year old son). Lies become truth. Ignorance is seen as a strength. War masquerades as peace, pervading ever aspect of out language and culture.  The free and open internet is fast becoming a thing of the past; incrementally being ever more censored, edited, surveilled and controlled. It is the way of the world in the turnkey totalitarian police state the U.S. has morphed into.

By Brittany Fitzgerald @ The Huffington Post:

The internet is becoming an increasingly monitored sphere.

According to Google’s sixth bi-annual Transparency Report, released on Nov. 13, the number of government requests to remove or survey content from the search engine’s services steadily increased in 2012.

Google’s report on the rise in digital interference from Big Brother comes amid furor over a sex scandal involving former CIA Director General David Petraeus, who resigned from his position last Friday and admitted to an affair. Sources said Petraeus had a relationship with Paula Broadwell, who in 2012 published a fawning biography on the general. In this couple’s case, the affair was uncovered using Gmail metadata buried in email exchanges.

“Broadwell will now become part of the statistics that Gmail reports in its next semi-annual transparency report on government data requests,” Wired deftly noted after reporting on methods the FBI used to uncover the affair.

In a blog post explaining the most recent Transparency Report, Google writes that from January to June of 2012, government officials made 20,938 inquiries about 34,614 specific accounts. These figures were higher than those reported in the previous report.

Take a look at the graph below to see how government requests to Google have increased since the company began releasing this information in 2009:

google transparency report

The amount of content that governments want completely removed from Google’s services is a number that also saw a sharp increase throughout the last six months. While this statistic has remained relatively steady in previous reports, the company received 1,791 requests to remove 17,746 pieces of content in 2012. Check out the numbers in the graph below:

google transparency report

“Government surveillance is on the rise,” Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou states in Google’s blog post. “[G]overnment demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report.”

But The Atlantic is quick to point out that Google doesn’t comply with all of these requests. In fact, since 2010, the company has been less compliant with governments’ requests for removal of content from Google services. In the United States, Google said it recently complied with less than 50 percent of these government requests.

But governments’ requests for user data is another story. According to the Transparency Report, Google still complies with 90 percent of these orders in the U.S.

So should you be worried about your personal email accounts? Most people probably shouldn’t be, according to Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. “The government can’t just wander through your emails just because they’d like to know what you’re thinking or doing,” Baker recently told the AP. “But if the government is investigating a crime, it has a lot of authority to review people’s emails.”

DHS Is Searching Your Facebook/Twitter For Words Like “Home”, “Cloud”, “Excercise” & “Social Media”

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

Oldspeak:The Department of Homeland Security monitors your updates on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, to uncover “Items Of Interest”. That’s catchy, in a Orwellian kinna way. “Items Of Interest” really? “Cloud” is an “item of interest? Consider the irony. In an era of unprecedented safety in the U.S., under the guise of ‘national security’, the U.S. is prosecuting a perpetual and nebulous “War On Terror”, Numerous civil liberties have been shredded via the “USA Patriot Act” and secretly negotiated treaties like ACTA, while Americans are being surveiled and spied on more than ever. We’re being encouraged to “Go Digital” and transition most of our lives from the physical world to a ‘more convenient’ virtual world, that is easier to monitor and control.  We’ve created a culture of fear unmatched since the days of the “Red Scare”. While words like “freedom” and “democracy” and “liberty” and flung about like so much red white and blue confetti. It is the insidious brilliance of inverted totalitarianism. You’re taught to love your farm, while you’re kept, spiritually, mentally and nutritionally deprived. Perpetually generating revenue for the corporocratic elite. Entertained in a world of screens, constantly bombarded with messages from a formidable propaganda system, telling you what to buy, think, eat, feel and know. We can only be kept in the cages we do not see. And we’re taught to love our cages. “To See The Farm Is To Leave It.”

Related Video:

The Story Of Your Enslavement

By Joel Johnson @ Animal New York:

The Department of Homeland Security monitors your updates on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, to uncover “Items Of Interest” (IOI), according to an internal DHS document released by the EPIC. That document happens to include a list of the baseline terms for which the DHS–or more specifically, a DHS subcontractor hired to monitor social networks–use to generate real-time IOI reports. (Although the released PDF is generally all reader-selectable text, the list of names was curiously embedded as an image of text, preventing simple indexing. We’ve fixed that below.)

To be fair, the DHS does have an internal privacy policy that attempts to strip your “PII”–Personally Identifiable Information–from the aggregated tweets and status updates, with some broad exceptions:

1) U.S. and foreign individuals in extremis situations involving potential life or death circumstances; (this is no change)
2) Senior U.S. and foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates;
3) U.S. and foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates;
4) U.S. and foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates;
5) Names of anchors, newscasters, or on-scene reporters who are known or identified as reporters in their post or article or who use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed;
6) Current and former public officials who are victims of incidents or activities related to Homeland Security; and
7) Terrorists, drug cartel leaders or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest, (e.g., mass shooters such as those at Virginia Tech or Ft. Hood) who are killed or found dead.

In addition, the Media Monitoring Capability team can transmit personal information to the DHS National Operations Center over the phone as deemed necessary.

The MMC watch may provide the name, position, or other information considered to be PII to the NOC over the telephone when approved by the appropriate DHS OPS authority. But that information must not be stored in a database that could be searched by an individual’s PII.

In addition to the following list of terms, the DHS can also add additional search terms circumstantially as deemed necessary.

DHS Media Monitoring Terms

2.13 Key Words & Search TermsThis is a current list of terms that will be used by the NOC when monitoring social media sites to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture. As natural or manmade disasters occur, new search terms may be added.

The new search terms will not use PII in searching for relevant
mission-related information.

DHS & Other Agencies

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Coast Guard (USCG)
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Border Patrol
  • Secret Service (USSS)
  • National Operations Center (NOC)
  • Homeland Defense
  • Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Agent
  • Task Force
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Fusion Center
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Secure Border Initiative (SBI)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)
  • Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS)
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Air Marshal
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • National Guard
  • Red Cross
  • United Nations (UN)

Domestic Security

  • Assassination
  • Attack
  • Domestic security
  • Drill
  • Exercise
  • Cops
  • Law enforcement
  • Authorities
  • Disaster assistance
  • Disaster management
  • DNDO (Domestic Nuclear Detection Office)
  • National preparedness
  • Mitigation
  • Prevention
  • Response
  • Recovery
  • Dirty Bomb
  • Domestic nuclear detection
  • Emergency management
  • Emergency response
  • First responder
  • Homeland security
  • Maritime domain awareness (MDA)
  • National preparedness initiative
  • Militia
  • Shooting
  • Shots fired
  • Evacuation
  • Deaths
  • Hostage
  • Explosion (explosive)
  • Police
  • Disaster medical assistance team (DMAT)
  • Organized crime
  • Gangs
  • National security
  • State of emergency
  • Security
  • Breach
  • Threat
  • Standoff
  • SWAT
  • Screening
  • Lockdown
  • Bomb (squad or threat)
  • Crash
  • Looting
  • Riot
  • Emergency Landing
  • Pipe bomb
  • Incident
  • Facility

HAZMAT & Nuclear

  • Hazmat
  • Nuclear
  • Chemical Spill
  • Suspicious package/device
  • Toxic
  • National laboratory
  • Nuclear facility
  • Nuclear threat
  • Cloud
  • Plume
  • Radiation
  • Radioactive
  • Leak
  • Biological infection (or event)
  • Chemical
  • Chemical burn
  • Biological
  • Epidemic
  • Hazardous
  • Hazardous material incident
  • Industrial spill
  • Infection
  • Powder (white)
  • Gas
  • Spillover
  • Anthrax
  • Blister agent
  • Exposure
  • Burn
  • Nerve agent
  • Ricin
  • Sarin
  • North Korea

Health Concern + H1N1

  • Outbreak
  • Contamination
  • Exposure
  • Virus
  • Evacuation
  • Bacteria
  • Recall
  • Ebola
  • Food Poisoning
  • Foot and Mouth (FMD)
  • H5N1
  • Avian
  • Flu
  • Salmonella
  • Small Pox
  • Plague
  • Human to human
  • Human to ANIMAL
  • Influenza
  • Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Public Health
  • Toxic
  • Agro Terror
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Agriculture
  • Listeria
  • Symptoms
  • Mutation
  • Resistant
  • Antiviral
  • Wave
  • Pandemic
  • Infection
  • Water/air borne
  • Sick
  • Swine
  • Pork
  • Strain
  • Quarantine
  • H1N1
  • Vaccine
  • Tamiflu
  • Norvo Virus
  • Epidemic
  • World Health Organization (WHO and components)
  • Viral Hemorrhagic Fever
  • E. Coli

Infrastructure Security

  • Infrastructure security
  • Airport
  • CIKR (Critical Infrastructure & Key Resources)
  • AMTRAK
  • Collapse
  • Computer infrastructure
  • Communications infrastructure
  • Telecommunications
  • Critical infrastructure
  • National infrastructure
  • Metro
  • WMATA
  • Airplane (and derivatives)
  • Chemical fire
  • Subway
  • BART
  • MARTA
  • Port Authority
  • NBIC (National Biosurveillance Integration Center)
  • Transportation security
  • Grid
  • Power
  • Smart
  • Body scanner
  • Electric
  • Failure or outage
  • Black out
  • Brown out
  • Port
  • Dock
  • Bridge
  • Canceled
  • Delays
  • Service disruption
  • Power lines

Southwest Border Violence

  • Drug cartel
  • Violence
  • Gang
  • Drug
  • Narcotics
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Heroin
  • Border
  • Mexico
  • Cartel
  • Southwest
  • Juarez
  • Sinaloa
  • Tijuana
  • Torreon
  • Yuma
  • Tucson
  • Decapitated
  • U.S. Consulate
  • Consular
  • El Paso
  • Fort Hancock
  • San Diego
  • Ciudad Juarez
  • Nogales
  • Sonora
  • Colombia
  • Mara salvatrucha
  • MS13 or MS-13
  • Drug war
  • Mexican army
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cartel de Golfo
  • Gulf Cartel
  • La Familia
  • Reynose
  • Nuevo Leon
  • Narcos
  • Narco banners (Spanish equivalents)
  • Los Zetas
  • Shootout
  • Execution
  • Gunfight
  • Trafficking
  • Kidnap
  • Calderon
  • Reyosa
  • Bust
  • Tamaulipas
  • Meth Lab
  • Drug trade
  • Illegal immigrants
  • Smuggling (smugglers)
  • Matamoros
  • Michoacana
  • Guzman
  • Arellano-Felix
  • Beltran-Leyva
  • Barrio Azteca
  • Artistics Assassins
  • Mexicles
  • New Federation

Terrorism

  • Terrorism
  • Al Queda (all spellings)
  • Terror
  • Attack
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Iran
  • Pakistan
  • Agro
  • Environmental terrorist
  • Eco terrorism
  • Conventional weapon
  • Target
  • Weapons grade
  • Dirty bomb
  • Enriched
  • Nuclear
  • Chemical weapon
  • Biological weapon
  • Ammonium nitrate
  • Improvised explosive device
  • IED (Improvised Explosive Device)
  • Abu Sayyaf
  • Hamas
  • FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces Colombia)
  • IRA (Irish Republican Army)
  • ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna)
  • Basque Separatists
  • Hezbollah
  • Tamil Tiger
  • PLF (Palestine Liberation Front)
  • PLO (Palestine Libration Organization)
  • Car bomb
  • Jihad
  • Taliban
  • Weapons cache
  • Suicide bomber
  • Suicide attack
  • Suspicious substance
  • AQAP (Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula)
  • AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)
  • TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan)
  • Yemen
  • Pirates
  • Extremism
  • Somalia
  • Nigeria
  • Radicals
  • Al-Shabaab
  • Home grown
  • Plot
  • Nationalist
  • Recruitment
  • Fundamentalism
  • Islamist

Weather/Disaster/Emergency

  • Emergency
  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Twister
  • Tsunami
  • Earthquake
  • Tremor
  • Flood
  • Storm
  • Crest
  • Temblor
  • Extreme weather
  • Forest fire
  • Brush fire
  • Ice
  • Stranded/Stuck
  • Help
  • Hail
  • Wildfire
  • Tsunami Warning Center
  • Magnitude
  • Avalanche
  • Typhoon
  • Shelter-in-place
  • Disaster
  • Snow
  • Blizzard
  • Sleet
  • Mud slide or Mudslide
  • Erosion
  • Power outage
  • Brown out
  • Warning
  • Watch
  • Lightening
  • Aid
  • Relief
  • Closure
  • Interstate
  • Burst
  • Emergency Broadcast System

Cyber Security

  • Cyber security
  • Botnet
  • DDOS (dedicated denial of service)
  • Denial of service
  • Malware
  • Virus
  • Trojan
  • Keylogger
  • Cyber Command
  • 2600
  • Spammer
  • Phishing
  • Rootkit
  • Phreaking
  • Cain and abel
  • Brute forcing
  • Mysql injection
  • Cyber attack
  • Cyber terror
  • Hacker
  • China
  • Conficker
  • Worm
  • Scammers
  • Social media

Yes, the Department of Homeland Security is searching social media for…”social media”.

Wikileaks: Internal Report Indicates U.S. Department Of Homeland Security Monitoring Occupy Wall Street Protests

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘The internal DHS report emphasizes the need to “control protesters”, They talk about threats to ‘critical infrastructure’ and this fear that these protests are going to…make commerce difficult and people are going to start losing money. There is a kind of bottom line in analysis to what they’re talking about. There isn’t an emphasis on public safety in a way one would expect from a department that’s supposed to protect the homeland. It’s this sort of sense that they’re protecting somebody’s homeland, and they’re the folks who generally make all the money.Michael Hastings COINTELPRO lives on. New Department, same ole shit. Still more evidence that your government does not represent you. It represents those folks who ‘generally make all the money.’ The financial services, and myriad of other anational corporations who gamble with other people’s money, homes and livelihoods; they profit  handsomely as billions of others struggle with debt, poverty, hunger, sickness, homelessness and joblessness. The vast majority of Americans are de-politicized, minimally informed & apathetic, with has paved the way for replacement of often heralded democratic ideals with inverted totalitarianism. Democracy has been subverted by men with million-dollar smiles, and the unwitting masses clamoring for more divestment from their liberties. “

Related Stories:

Obama Administration Coordinated Local Police Crackdowns On Occupy Encampments Nationwide

Occupy Wall Street “Counterinsurgency” Has Infiltrated Protests; Seeks To Diffuse Message

FBI To Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge Of Its Spy Campaign Targeting American Activists

By Allison Kilkenny @ In These Times:

Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings last night posted a story on an internal DHS report entitled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street,” dated October of last year. The five-page report, part of five million newly leaked documents obtained by Wikileaks, sums up the history of the movement and assesses its “impact” on the financial services and government facilities.

In an interview on Citizen Radio, Hastings talked about the monitoring by DHS and also the leaked emails from Stratfor, a leading private intelligence firm Hastings describes as the “shadow CIA.”

The process of combing through the huge amount of leaked documents has only just begun, but Hastings considers the revelation that the government was keeping tabs on OWS to be the biggest news so far to come out of the latest dump.

The monitoring, or spying (depending on how generous one is feeling), process included DHS scouring OWS-related Twitter feeds.

“[DHS] was following all of the social networking activity that was going on among Occupy Wall Street,” says Hastings. “Now, I’m sure this is going to be spun tomorrow as this continues to grow that, oh, it’s just benign, DHS just used open source material to do this, and that’s true, but the question is: why is a large government bureaucracy who’s mandated to protect the homeland…monitoring very closely a peaceful political protest movement? They’re not monitoring the Democratic National Committee, they’re not monitoring Young Republican meetings. They’re monitoring Occupy Wall Street.”

The report emphasizes the need to “control protesters,” terminology Hastings finds troubling, along with DHS’s assertion that OWS will likely become more violent. Hastings calls that prediction “quite a leap,” as there is no evidence so far that the overwhelmingly peaceful movement is prone to become violent.

“[The report] names all the sort of groups [DHS is] worried about, one being Anonymous, this hacktivist group, but it also names the other people in Occupy Wall Street: labor unions, student groups,” Hastings says.

One might expect to read some hand-wringing over public safety concerns in a government document, and yet the DHS document appears to be more concerned with protecting the mechanisms of the financial sector than in ensuring the safety of citizens who are exercising their First Amendment rights.

“They talk about threats to ‘critical infrastructure’ and this fear that these protests are going to…make commerce difficult and people are going to start losing money. There is a kind of bottom line in analysis to what they’re talking about. There isn’t an emphasis on public safety in a way one would expect from a department that’s supposed to protect the homeland. It’s this sort of sense that they’re protecting somebody’s homeland, and they’re the folks who generally make all the money.”

This same business-over-people bias is present in the second major leak involving the Stratfor emails. “When you go look at the back-and-forth, it’s all about, well, we have to protect lower Manhattan so the bankers can get to work on time.”

Hastings talks about two troubling tracks: In the DHS case, the U.S. government monitoring activist groups, and in the Stratfor case, large corporations paying a private intelligence firm to monitor other activist groups.

Dow Chemicals had Stratfor analyze the activities of Bhopal activists such as the Yes Men, who famously pranked the company by impersonating a Dow Chemical executive and publicly apologizing on the BBC for the Bhopal disaster that killed 8,000 people.

The list of Stratfor’s corporate clients is an impressive one, including Dow Chemicals and Coca-Cola. Clients are willing to pay the firm $40,000 for a subscription to Stratfor’s services (and additional huge sums of money for more services,) because the company bills itself as a private CIA, privy to high-level intelligence access.

“You have the DOW Chemicals situation, you have Coca-Cola hiring Stratfor to go after animal rights activists, to sort of keep tabs on them, and then also the question is: why would Stratfor have this Department of Homeland Security document, right? And the answer to that is Stratfor’s clients, or clearly Stratfor saw a business opportunity in keeping track, and figuring out how to handle protesters. In fact, in the email record…they’re talking about different tactics in lower Manhattan about, well, the streets are narrow down there, so if they push the protesters this way, or that way, that’s a better way to catch them. They’re drilling down into the best ways to kind of protect the financial services who are some of their clients.”

On Jan. 26, 2011, Fred Burton, the vice president of Stratfor, fired off an excited email to his colleagues: “Text Not for Pub. We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”

The question was: who did Burton mean by “we”?

“It’s like the Big Lebowski, right? The royal We,” says Hastings.

What Burton meant by “we” was the U.S. government.

“We know that the Department of Justice had been investigating Assange, and playing this game of oftentimes not explicitly saying what they were doing, but sort of threatening they would be doing this espionage investigation. We know that they’ve interviewed people in a grand jury, and then a few weeks ago with the Bradley Manning pre-trial that they were actually trying to make this espionage case against Assange,” says Hastings. “Burton claims that there in fact a secret U.S. indictment against Assange related, essentially, to espionage. That’s pretty big news.”

Hastings is braced for all of the typically condescending and dismissive remarks to come rolling in from the beltway in the wake of these latest leaks. In fact, the derision has already begun. One editor at The Atlantic called Wikileaks “a joke,” and dismissed the Stratfor emails out of hand.

Hastings expects others to say there’s no difference between a private intelligence firm and a newspaper or news bureau.

“I think that’s totally wrong. Journalists have sources and informants, but also our mission is to share that information with the public so the citizenry can make more informed decisions. Stratfor’s mission is to gather information so it can sell it to the highest bidder so corporations can essentially make more profit and get a competitive edge on their opponents,” he says.

That kind of knee-jerk dismissiveness strikes of bad journalism, according to Hastings. While no cheerleader for Wikileaks – during the interview, Hastings admitted there’s a lot of stuff one can criticize Wikileaks about, particularly the practice of releasing large amounts of data that hasn’t been reviewed very carefully – he still finds the overall work done by the group extremely newsworthy.

“What news organization has had a bigger impact than Wikileaks? Iraq war logs, Afghan war logs, the Cablegate. These are important stories. This is news. DHS was monitoring Occupy Wall Street. That’s a story, and it’s a significant story. We’re talking about Occupy Wall Street: one of the biggest grassroots, political movements that we’ve seen in a generation and the government’s response to that.”

One of the most worrying aspects to the Stratfor story is the privatizing of yet another typically goverment-only function. Like Blackwater, here is another shadowy private agency doing the work usually done by the U.S. government, a recipe, as we’ve learned time and time again, for unaccountability and disaster.

Also, Stratfor is ripe for the revolving door effect.

“It’s a chance for people who worked in government in these various intelligence agencies to, once they leave, to have lucrative positions where they’re able to — in the same way some politicians become lobbyists to ply off their old contacts — to have these great, well-paying positions where they can use their former intelligence contacts and sell their services in the corporate world,” says Hastings.

To naysayers claiming there’s nothing wrong with former government officials capitalizing on their particular skill sets, Hastings responds, “Once you start spying on activists, and peaceful protesters, then I would say that’s very troubling.”

Facebook Tracks You Online, Even After You Log Out

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Oldspeak:Whenever you visit a web page that contains a Facebook button or widget, your browser is still sending details of your movements back to Facebook. Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. When you log out of Facebook, rather than deleting its tracking cookies, the site merely modifies them, maintaining account information and other unique tokens that can be used to identify you. …the only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.” -Nik Cubrilovic  The surveillance state as indispensable social network. Just a FYI.

By Asher Moses @ The Sunday Morning Herald:

Facebook cookie collection 'could be dangerous' (Video Thumbnail)

Click to play video

More video Replay video

An Australian technologist has caused a global stir after discovering Facebook tracks the websites its users visit even when they are logged out of the social networking site.

Separately, Facebook’s new Timeline feature, launched last week, has been inadvertently accessed by users early, revealing a feature that allows people to see who removed them from their friends’ lists.

Facebook’s changes – which turn profiles into a chronological scrapbook of the user’s life – are designed to let its 800 million members share what they are reading, listening to or watching in real-time. But they have been met with alarm by some who fear over-sharing.

Causing a stir ... Nik Cubrilovic.

Causing a stir … Australian Nik Cubrilovic first spotted the tracking issuePhoto: Flickr.com/e27singapore

Of course, Facebook’s bottom line improves the more users decide to share. Reports suggest that Facebook staff refer internally to “Zuck’s law“, which describes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that every year people share twice as much online – a trend that has caused Facebook’s valuation to skyrocket towards $US100 billion.

“Facebook is a lot more than a social network and ultimately wants to be the premier platform on which people experience, organise and share digital entertainment,” said Ovum analyst Eden Zoller.

But in alarming new revelations, Wollongong-based Nik Cubrilovic conducted tests, which revealed that when you log out of Facebook, rather than deleting its tracking cookies, the site merely modifies them, maintaining account information and other unique tokens that can be used to identify you.

Facebook founder shows off the new Facebook profiles at the F8 conference last week.Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shows off the new Facebook profiles at the F8 conference last week. Photo: AFP

Whenever you visit a web page that contains a Facebook button or widget, your browser is still sending details of your movements back to Facebook, Cubrilovic says.

“Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit,” Cubrilovic wrote in a blog post.

“The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.”

Facebook's new Timelines feature creates a chronological scrapbook of major events in your life.Facebook’s new Timelines feature creates a chronological scrapbook of major events in your life. Photo: AFP

Cubrilovic is working on a new unnamed start-up but has previously been involved with large technology blog TechCrunch and online storage company Omnidrive.

He backed up his claims with detailed technical information. His post was picked up by technology news sites around the world but Facebook has yet to provide a response to Fairfax Media and others.

David Vaile, executive director of UNSW’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, said Facebook’s changes were a ”breathtaking and audacious grab for whole life data”. In an email interview he accused the social networking site of attempting to ”normalise gross and unsafe overexposure”.

”While initially opt-in, the default then seems to be expose everything, and Facebook have form in the past for lowering protection after people get used to a certain level of initial protection – bait and switch,” he said.

Stephen Collins, spokesman for the online users’ lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said he did not believe Cubrilovic’s revelations would see people turn away from the site in droves but he hoped users became more engaged with the issue.

”Facebook, once again, are doing things that are beyond most users’ capacity to understand while reducing their privacy. That’s just not cool. I’d go so far as to say it’s specifically unethical,” he said.

Collins said the only reason he still uses Facebook is to help his 14-year-old daughter on the site. He said it took him an hour to lock down his profile to his satisfaction following the recent changes.

”It’s just not good enough. The default setting for any site should be ‘reveal nothing about me unless I make a specific choice otherwise’,” he said.

Others have compared Facebook’s changes to Bentham’s panopticon – a design for a prison where the guards can see all inmates but where the inmates never know whether they’re being watched. The result, applied to Facebook, is that real-time sharing means we always feel like we’re being watched and this then influences our behaviour.

Cubrilovic said he tried to contact Facebook to inform it of his discovery but did not get a reply. He said there were significant risks to the privacy of users, particularly those using public terminals to access Facebook.

“Facebook are front-and-centre in the new privacy debate just as Microsoft were with security issues a decade ago,” Cubrilovic said.

“The question is what it will take for Facebook to address privacy issues and to give their users the tools required to manage their privacy and to implement clear policies – not pages and pages of confusing legal documentation, and ‘logout’ not really meaning ‘logout’.”

The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, would not comment specifically on Cubrilovic’s findings but said generally social networking sites need to clearly spell out when browsing information is being collected, the purposes for which it may be used and whether it will be disclosed to other organisations.

“Good practice would also be to allow for users to opt out of having it collected,” said Pilgrim.

The findings come after technology industry observer Dave Winer declared Facebook was scaring him because the new interface for third-party developers allows them to post items to your Facebook feed without your intervention. This has been dubbed “frictionless sharing”.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Timeline feature, which shows users a timeline of their activity on the site throughout the years, has not officially been switched on but many are using it already. Instructions can be found here.

But inadvertently or by design, the Timeline feature also lets people see which users had “unfriended” them by following a few simple steps:

1. Enable the new Timeline feature.
2. Pick a year in the timeline and locate the Friends box.
3. Click on “Made X New Friends”.
4. Scroll through the list and when you see an “Add Friend” box, those are the people either you have unfriended or vice-versa.

However, it appears Facebook has now disabled this function, describing it to gadget blog Gizmodo as a “bug”.

Finally, security researchers were quick to hose down a hoax that spread through the social network, claiming that Facebook was planning to start charging users for the new features.

twitter This reporter is on Twitter: @ashermoses

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 398 other followers