Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

Summary: Wikileaks Assange says Facebook is the "most appalling spy machine", with data accessible by U.S. authorities. He could be onto something (Hint: he is).

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in an interview with Russia Today, though waiting extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual assault charges, spoke of Facebook as being "the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented".

Considering last week's posts, he may well be onto something.

We already know that the USA PATRIOT Act can be used, without necessarily the need of a court order or search warrant, to access the data held by a U.S. company in a datacenter or on a university campus. However, this can also apply to non-US datacenters and offices which are wholly owned and operated by U.S. organisations.

Arguably, a sceptic may simply pass off Assange's assertions as the ramblings of a paranoid delusionist. On the other hand, and take my word on this, though I don't necessarily agree nor can confirm all of his suspicions, there is sufficient evidence to at least support many of his claims.

Explaining his thoughts in greater detail, as reported by The Next Web, he said:

"Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, and their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US Intelligence."

True. I don't think anyone can doubt that as fact; again, considering the report on the Patriot Act last week.

Even if Facebook does have datacenters in Europe to comply with EU data protection legislation, as a US parent company, Facebook (U.S.) can be served with a request to access Facebook (EU) data which it wholly owns and controls. To not hand over the data would be, to put it simply, like having an argument with yourself.

However, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed this morning that all of its datacenters are in the U.S; one on either coast and one in Oregon. This means all Facebook data is automatically vulnerable to the Patriot Act, regardless of the user's nationality.

So, we can tick off that particular quote as accurate.

On the other hand, Assange believes that along with other major technology companies, both in the cloud and otherwise, are complicit to U.S. authorities wishing to inspect data held by these companies, by way of a 'built in interface' for intelligence officials.

Going on, he explains in further detail:

"It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena, they have an interface they have developed for US Intelligence to use. Now, is the case that Facebook is 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 to them.

It’s costly for them to hand out individual records, one by one, so they have automated the process."

Facebook aside, let us not forget that just over a year ago, a leaked document released by Cryptome, a Wikileaks-style repository, detailing how Microsoft directly works with law enforcement authorities to allow access under specific acts of law, designed to prevent terrorism, loss of life or serious injury.

The "Global Criminal Compliance Handbook", which can still be found online, runs through which data is collected from users by Microsoft, including your stored emails, Messenger conversation data, when you sign in, where from, credit card information, IP connection details and so on.

Microsoft is not to blame though, as Gregg Keizer points out. All companies, not just Microsoft, are required to comply with local and state laws to allow law enforcement to access specific data when it is necessary.

So, if Microsoft is not the exception, Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and other major and smaller companies with services in the cloud must also hand over data, with or without a warrant, depending on the Act of law invoked.

While it's fair to say that he may not be entirely right, in that he cannot prove his assertions, he's certainly not entirely wrong.

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Topics: Hardware, Cloud, Data Centers, Storage, Social Enterprise

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58 comments
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  • Do you think your data is safe from the U.S. authorities?

    Considering the posts last week regarding the Patriot Act, do you trust Facebook, Microsoft, Google <i>et al</i> with your data?
    zwhittaker
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @zwhittaker Yea imagine all the pictures containing gps meta data that have been uploaded to FB and other services? All software should have a back door lol. Send your word processing data as you type right to the government.
      LarsDennert
      • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

        @LarsDennert So, I guess the long-term concern is that the U.S. government might one day be taken over by some hos<a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">t</a>ile entity that would use this power for evil instead of good. But considering that this has never happened in American history, it seems to me there would be many much more imminent threats for him to worry about.
        alasiri6
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @zwhittaker
      Yes - because I do not put anything in the cloud that my mother, boss, parents family et al couldn't/shouldn't read. If they are that darn desperate have at it. If it's not on my encrypted drives at home on my server and behind my two firewalls...then shame on me. Because as I tell my children - if on the internet and you hit send - "it's in the public record - like or not". Assange is the classic example of that little rule - damn principles, rules and lives.
      ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

        @ItsTheBottomLine
        Ever buy anything online? Ever get a question joke in email? Ever forward it? Ever get spam?

        Google has openly said they keep their information, feed ads based on words in your email.

        They provide intelligence agencies (NSA) 'peeks' into data, as well as the base code to help with data gathering...and on and on

        I agree with your sentiment, but certainly naively believing that doing nothing wrong would not lead you to believe that the government should be allowed to get to your data?

        The bigger chill should be companies putting their data in the cloud...ouch!
        QAonCall
      • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

        @QAonCall
        Agree 100%, I was referring to FB, but you are correct. I do order on-line, BUT, I use - probably overkill - those Gift Cards from Amex or Visa... work great, and if for some odd reason it gets stolen, they get a whopping few 100 bucks, and my person info - because it's my company address. Our company credit union has them, so it's easy. And I don't order that much on-line. Company data being up there is one that I'm just waiting for the fallout from.
        ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @zwhittaker No, but it isn't really a matter of trust in those companies so much as what the US law is. Companies like Google and Twitter have historically tried to provide as much information as possible regarding requests to their users, and that's really all that they can do legally. We can't ask these companies to risk being dissolved, what we need to do is lobby at a national level (as well as get them on board with lobbying).

      The way you phrased it implies some sort of culpability on the part of these companies for the state of the US surveillance state. No one likes the fact that they have to comply with national security letters, but them's the brakes.
      snoop0x7b
      • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

        @snoop0x7b

        I think what he is talking about here is another route (back door) in to FB which is not available to members of the FB community. using this, they can probably look at the data in its raw state and run queries to extract info from certain data fields.
        sip01
    • You can protect your and control your private info

      You can avoid being tracked and hide your real online activity with Breadcrumbs Bogus Identity
      Privacy man
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @zwhittaker

      I trust that all of these companies will give up my data just as fast as humanly possible if the government asks for it. I don't have anything to hide, and if I did I wouldn't be hiding it on Facebook, but it still creeps me out that the government has this level of unfettered access without even a hint of judicial oversight. I had hoped that the Obama administration would undo some of the erosion of due process implemented by the Bush administration, but instead they've zealously guarded and even expanded the daily intrusions into the affairs of citizens who are not suspected of criminal activities.
      1DaveN
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @zwhittaker
      "Considering the posts last week regarding the Patriot Act, do you trust Facebook, Microsoft, Google et al with your data?"

      Not even caring about the Patriot Act, I do not trust Facebook, Microsoft, Google et al with my data. But to do business, surf the web, use a smart phone, etc. . . there is little choice until some laws are passed that give the consumer a bit more protection.

      I am more concerned about companies like Apple (and others) collecting my personal data on their smart phones and then selling it to those I would never have allowed. That is of much more concern to me than the government perusing all the tripe posted on Facebook.

      I am not concerned in the slightest that the Chinese (or any government) will conquer the world based on what gets posted on Facebook.

      Sally posted to her facebook today, "I love oranges for breakfast. I had two today." And the governments of the world, using the Patriot act to gather Facebook postings, cornered the market on Oranges.

      Lets get real. Most of what is posted on Facebook is tripe.


      Concerning Julian Assange, it is the ramblings of a deeply flawed person trying to justify their depravity.

      Most criminals in prison do the same thing. Most criminals out of prison do the same thing to justify their questionable actions. I am not saying the person is a criminal (though I think that in the end they may be proven to be just as guilty of being depraved), just pointing out that those who have an extremely flexible concept of morality often justify their actions and the studies of depraved criminals is a perfect example.

      There is a huge difference between looking at my family photos and via the GPS tag data learning where my parents live (and their location can be found via google search or using the old white pages) and releasing secret government documents that could have alerted Bin Laden that the US Government new the identity of his currier (yes it has hit the press that some of the wikileak docs did divulge that the currier?s id was blown. In those docs was also info that 'one place the US was looking for Bin Laden is in Abbottabad' which is where Bin Laden was found. It has come out that the US government was extremely concerned that this leak of secret info may have alerted Bin Laden and could have caused him to flee).

      There is a huge difference between a government getting access to my personal data on Facebook (less data than I give them every time I get a license, passport, file taxes, census, etc. . . .) and someone divulging secret information that could cost the lives of many, many people.

      This morality should not be ambiguous.

      How does the author feel about all the CCTV that gathers info about his UK movements every time he goes outside?



      I do think that wikileaks could have been beneficial to society but the person who is running it seems to be just as much of a sociopath as any who are in jail, he simply did not show his depravity through direct violence but instead through indirect damage. It is still just as depraved.

      It is too bad that wikileaks took the direction that it went; it could have been very beneficial for society. I do believe that many secrets that Governments have should not necessarily be secrets, but who decides? Wikileaks? Julian Assange? You? Me? The bloke down the street that flipped you the bird this morning?


      The French can lock up a suspect, not give them access to any legal council, interrogate the suspect for days on end (non stop) without bathroom access, without letting the suspect sleep, etc. . . .and you are worried about the Patriot act allowing the US Government to read about who posts what on Facebook?

      Massive amounts of slavery still goes on in many parts of the world, and you seem deeply concerned about the Patriot act letting the Government have access to your Google info. . . .just what is it that you have been telling Google that you do not want the Governments of the world to know?
      John238
  • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

    so what is the difference between the US spying on emails, facebook etc., and China spying on emails, facebook (or equivalent), etc. Most likely the only difference is which government acts in what way on this information. That seems like trusting that a pit bull will not bite me...maybe he will and maybe he won't regardless of whether you did or did not do/say/feel/etc something right or wrong. So, I simply do not 'do facebook' because for me, privacy matters.
    Bradish1
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @Bradish@...

      I don't like what the government is doing, but I think facebook and blogs and everything else about the internet do more to undermine the government's fascist tendencies than it does to facilitate them.
      tkejlboom
    • RE: Wikileaks Assange: 'Facebook open to US intelligence'

      @Bradish@... There isn't really a difference. The difference is we pretend to live in an open society.
      snoop0x7b
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    janesyd
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    Hallowed are the Ori
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      Economister
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        Hallowed are the Ori
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        Economister
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        ItsTheBottomLine