The notorious, indefinite online collective Anonymous (often called "hacktivists") has drawn a parallel between Facebook and totalitarian governments, vowing to "destroy" the Wal-Mart of social networks on November 5.
UPDATE: It now seems like "Operation Facebook" is not wholly supported by Anonymous and reports are in conflict; some do and some don't. For the new developments, read Anonymous does not support killing Facebook on November 5. /UPDATE
The statement of intent cites privacy issues for Facebook users as their main impetus for turning November 5 into a Facebook Gunpowder Plot:
DATE: November 5, 2011.
Press: Twitter : https://twitter.com/OP_Facebook http://piratepad.net/YCPcpwrl09 Irc.Anonops.Li #OpFaceBook Message:
Attention citizens of the world,
We wish to get your attention, hoping you heed the warnings as follows: Your medium of communication you all so dearly adore will be destroyed. If you are a willing hacktivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill facebook for the sake of your own privacy.
Facebook has been selling information to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from all around the world. Some of these so-called whitehat infosec firms are working for authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria.
Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your "privacy" settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you "delete" your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time. Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more "private" is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family. http://www.physorg.com/news170614271.htmlhttp://itgrunts.com/2010/10/07/facebook-steals-numbers-and-data-from-your-iph....
You cannot hide from the reality in which you, the people of the internet, live in. Facebook is the opposite of the Antisec cause. You are not safe from them nor from any government. One day you will look back on this and realise what we have done here is right, you will thank the rulers of the internet, we are not harming you but saving you.
The riots are underway. It is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It is a battle for choice and informed consent. It's unfolding because people are being raped, tickled, molested, and confused into doing things where they don't understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely false. It gives users the illusion of and hides the details away from them "for their own good" while they then make millions off of you. When a service is "free," it really means they're making money off of you and your information.
Think for a while and prepare for a day that will go down in history. November 5 2011, #opfacebook . Engaged.
This is our world now. We exist without nationality, without religious bias. We have the right to not be surveilled, not be stalked, and not be used for profit. We have the right to not live as slaves.
We are anonymous We are legion We do not forgive We do not forget Expect us
Facebook is widely known for its issues around user privacy - most notably, that they're terrible with it.
The list of Facebook's privacy failures and transgressions is lengthy and probably not complete, including Danah Boyd's Harvard/UC Berkeley paper Facebook's Privacy Trainwreck to frequent changes to user settings without notification, to new issues raised by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.
But there are two recent events that may have brought Anon's scrutiny to the fore.
Facebook, Anonymous, name wars and the Google+ Effect
When the Google+ excitement first hit, Anonymous set up a profile on the service. Like many others soon to follow, they were banned under Google Plus' "real names" policy. This policy continues to be an unresolved thorn in Google Plus' side, even yesterday prompting this Who Else Did Google+ Ban Today? page.
In reaction, Anonymous said they would set up their own social network where anonymity was the standard. Called AnonPlus, it was just hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army in a retaliatory attack.
As we all know, the Google+ name policy has spun out of control with a huge debate over real names and user privacy and safety becoming a lightning rod for all factions.
Google+ dug in their feet while accusations of favoritism went unanswered, they clung to their policy and continued the bans, and the situation simply grew worse. I consider it a particular violation that Google+ has asked for copies of user's government ID's.
In Google's Antisocial Behavior, banned and then re-banned user Doc Pop details an unbelievable scenario, one that he and many others have endured to not only reclaim their Google+ profiles, but access to other Google services as well:
It’s been 14 days since you suspended my access to Google Reader, Data Liberation, Google Profile, and various other services because the name I signed up to Google+ with didn’t sound right to you.
When I first filed my appeal you told me that my name violated Google+’s Terms Of Services, which simply stated that I needed to “use the name that I commonly go by in daily life”, so I responded with newspaper articles (Village Voice, Wall Street Journal, etc) and statements from past employers that verified my daily name (or common law name) has been “Doctor Popular” for more than 12 years. Despite all this evidence, your support staff told me the only way to regain access to my accounts was to send in a copy of my government issued ID.
Vic Gundatro (Google’s Senior VP Social) isn’t using his “real” name and Natalie Villalobos (Google+ Community Manager) stated on this thread that “providing a government ID is an optional part of the Common Names process and our reviewer is incorrect when he says that he needs a government issued ID to confirm the name.”
Currently I’m still locked out of various Google Services because of a TOS that I didn’t actually break. I’ve sought help through email, on the Google Support forum, and even tried writing your community managers directly (through Twitter and email).
I’ve sought out help of other jilted lovers. I’ve held a couple of “Banned by Google” meetings in SF and have heard stories of people getting suspended, submitting their ID, and being told the name on their ID was not acceptable and their appeal was denied. Newly banned users are still being required to provide ID. Your support forum is filled with hundreds of folks using their birth names and unable to get their accounts reactivated. At this point, the first thing folks probably hear about Google+ is that if you sign up for it, you may permanently lose access to other Google Services.
Meanwhile, author of the groundbreaking Facebook privacy cold shower Facebook's Privacy Trainwreck, Danah Boyd, wrote [Google Plus] “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power.
As it happens this 'circle' does indeed lead back to Facebook. Before her resignation, Mark Zucekrberg's sister and then-Marketing Director Randi Zuckerberg voiced Facebook's stance on the matter. If you're like me and you value privacy, it was possibly one of the most chilling statements on the topic thus far.
Speaking last week on a panel discussion about social media hosted by Marie Claire magazine, Randi Zuckerberg said,
I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.
Randi Zuckerberg has since left the company so that she can start her own social network advisory company where she will likely be advising companies, that anonymity must "go away."
Personally, as someone that has had their share of invalid Facebook page deletions, I'm always ready for Facebook to 'go away' as the social network has conditioned me to expect them (and competitors like Google+) to pull the rug out from under me and my communities with no notice.
In V For Vendetta, the Guy Fawkes character attempts to bring down the totalitarian government and convince the people to rule for themselves.
Is this what social networks like Facebook and Google+ have become?
Something tells me it's going to be tough to do what anyone here wants to accomplish.
Image via LAist.