FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

Summary: The Feds have training courses on gathering information on social networks, identifying relationships, chasing the bad guys and going undercover, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The biggest surprise: That this would surprise anyone.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service have training courses on gathering information on social networks, identifying relationships, chasing the bad guys and going undercover, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The biggest surprise: Social networking users are surprised by any of this government activity.

Looking at the headlines about the government's documents on how to use social networking and it's surprising that anyone thinks this is a big deal. Undercover Feds on Facebook? Gasp! IRS using social networking to piece together a few facts that illustrate you lied about your taxes? Oooh.

Give me a break. Why wouldn't the Feds use these tools? They'd be idiots if they didn't. Repeat after me:

  • Privacy is a bit of a joke online and you willingly give it up.
  • People share everything on social networks (lunch, vacation plans, whereabouts, drivel no one cares about).
  • This information is increasingly public.

Let's face it; folks are broadcasting everything from the breakfast they eat to their bowel movements to when and where they are on vacation. They use services that track every movement they make (willingly!) on Foursquare and Google Latitude. Why wouldn't an FBI agent chasing a perp get into some idiot's network so he can track him everywhere? It's called efficiency people.

I'm only being slightly facetious here, but it is comical when people that give up their privacy daily get squeamish when the Feds play along.

Let's consider the following scenario. You tell the IRS you made $20,000. Yet on your Facebook and Twitter all you do is yap about the new Ferrari you bought, your mansion and how great life is when you're independently wealthy. Why wouldn't some IRS inspector be interested? Perhaps the FBI should look into your potential drug money paying for all of this. But whose fault is it really? You're the tool broadcasting all of this stuff on a social network. Mobsters, bookies and anyone else that may be of interest to the Feds used to live in generic houses so they didn't draw attention to themselves. Where's the criminal modesty?

Today, everyone is on a social network looking for 3 minutes of fame. Anyone can track you. And that someone could be far worse than the FBI and IRS.

It's all free game.

In fact, I'd be more alarmed if the Feds weren't using these social networking tools. Can you imagine the headlines when there's another terrorist attack and the FBI couldn't track down the perps because they couldn't figure out how to friend someone on Facebook?

A few money slides from the EFF docs, which everyone should read.

Notice that last point above---the one that few actually follow.

Topics: Collaboration, Government, Government US, Networking, Social Enterprise

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22 comments
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  • Privacy online is not a joke BUT...

    ...anyone who thinks law enforcement/government spooks can't use data *you deliberately made public yourself* is an idiot.

    Of course, my girlfriend is constantly showing me examples of Facebook/Myspace/etc idiocy, so why anyone is surprised that idiots are indignant that data THEY THEMSELVES broadcasted to the world can be used by others is itself idiotic.

    Recursive idiocy? (laughing)
    wolf_z
    • I tend to agree and...

      I am not surprised at all. As a matter of fact, if law enforcement did NOT use these social media I would think THEY were the idiots.

      And if you put potentially damaging/compromising or otherwise highly personal information on the internet, then you are certainly an idiot (not YOU, but the poster).
      Economister
  • And then we have MySpace SELLING your personal data now...

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/191716/myspace_selling_user_data.html

    I've said it before...and I'll say it again...ANYONE who uses these stupid social networking sites disserves EVERYTHING they get in the way of privacy invasion.
    IT_Guy_z
  • Law enforcement makes money by getting convictions

    They don't give a damn whether the convictions matter.
    So they're going to get hundreds of thousands of
    piddly convictions from idiots talking about how great
    the weed was last weekend. Think the heads of the
    Mexican drug cartels are on there yapping about their
    next load, or who they're going to whack tomorrow?

    The biggest difference I've seen between people in the
    US and Europe is that in Europe, governments fear
    their people. In the US people fear their government.
    Keeping people afraid has to be a big part of this.
    "We're always watching you. We know who your friends
    are. We know where you go. We know when you fly. We're
    reading all your personal communications. Etc."
    HollywoodDog
    • Hoooo boy.

      Look, everyone wants to know EVERYTHING, and we passed up the idea "that no warrant shall issue save upon probable cause, attested by a citizen" that is, under the 4th Amendment, that no person shall be held to account EXCEPT after a citizen complains of some loss, about 130 years ago.
      So, when the religious police come for you, because you wrote a treatise on atheism 30 years ago, or made reference to one last week in an online forum, don't say you weren't warned.
      mykmlr@...
      • Yes! Probable cause

        What is the probable cause for scanning Facebook pages? Investigations HAVE to be focused, with warrants issued along the way. Casting a wide net has been shot down in court many times. If I was guilty of a crime - and the FBI used my Facebook information as a investigation starter - then it should get thrown out of court.

        If you get undressed in front of an open window, can someone outside stand there and look? Legally it's called "Peeping" and you could be arrested. You could protest all you want about how "they wanted me to see" - as they drag you to the squad-car. How is Facebook different than that?
        Roger Ramjet
  • The Net is fair game

    and always has been. Only a complete n00b isn't hip to that reality.

    Caveat emptor baby.
    klumper
  • If you publish it ....

    ... it quits being private.

    And tell your elected representatives to quit supporting junk like the USA Patriot Act.

    Tell them even North Korea has "patriots", so quit drinking the kookaide.
    nottheusual1
    • As I mentioned above

      Facebook is considered your "home" - and thus if you are NOT invited in, then you are violating privacy by "hacking in".

      If you are invited in, there is an implicit agreement NOT to disseminate information publically - otherwise there wouldn't be a requirement for "Friending". It is information given in strictest confidence.
      Roger Ramjet
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    4.Angler Social network(such as Second Life)

    Everyone knows that Google motto is, 'Don't be evil.' Is it all right? Visit http://www.koreacontent.org/weben/index.jsp, and type 'Real-time Fishing LBS Contents'. Search http://www.koreacontent.org/co/i/iiworld/index.html. If you need more information, please send your email address.
    IIWmaster
  • RE: FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

    Im think Washington is a pile of Dog Crap with a bunch of flies crawling on it.
    captainfizz@...
  • RE: FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

    Washington D.C. is a pile of Dog Crap with a bunch of Flies crawling on it.
    captainfizz@...
  • RE: FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

    Washington D.C. is a pile of Dog Crap with a bunch of Flies crawling on it. Bureaucrats were spawned by politicans to ensure there was a lower life form.
    captainfizz@...
  • What, information being collected by the US government

    on what the country's citizens post online ?!! As a fairly assiduous reader of the US press, I had thought that sort of conduct was confined to the [u]Chinese[/u] authorities ! Pity to be disillusioned at so young an age....

    Henri
    mhenriday
  • Where's the outrage from the Left?

    The libs were going nuts when the Bush Administration would wiretap phone calls from the US to suspected terrorists outside the country.

    But I'm hearing nothing from them about stuff like this. If the Bush Administration had done this, they'd have been marching in the street.

    Because their Narcissistic Community Organizer has authorized it, it's OK.
    rag@...
    • You really don't understand reality, do you?

      How about because I have a reasonable expectation of privacy when I make a phone call; whereas I have no such expectation when I blather on Facebook or Twitter?
      orangemike
  • RE: FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

    If you think reading stuff posted voluntarily on Facebook is equivalent to a phone wiretap without a court order, you have some serious catching up to do with the class.
    Biotechguy
    • Brainwashed

      If you think that the US is a democratic country i suggest you go back to your history class.
      neeeko
  • RE: FBI, Feds collect Facebook, social media data; Why are you surprised?

    Its understandable however I think we should be concerned if it becomes common place for non-criminals. For example, should some lowly government shmuck be allowed to go through all your online activity if they are doing a routine tax audit. Probably not.

    The concern is that we are handing too much capability to what essentially are just government employees. If there was SIGNIFICANT criminal liability for those employees abusing the privledge, then its a little easier to swallow our loss of rights.
    Merrr
  • good idea about facebook

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    gavin.chan