WikiLeaks founder: Facebook is "most appalling spying machine ever invented"

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called Facebook "the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented." Facebook has responded.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be awaiting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges but that doesn't mean the media has lost interest in what he has to say about various important issues. In a recent interview with Russia Today, Assange was asked for his perspective on the revolutions in the Middle East.

After Assange compared the differences between what is happening in Egypt and Libya, he was asked about the role of social networks such as Facebook. That's when the WikiLeaks founder erupted:

Facebook, in particular, is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It's not a matter of serving a subpoena – they have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use.

Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually 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. And it's costly for them to hand out records, one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States' intelligence agencies, in building this database for them.

Facebook has since responded, denying Assange's claims at least somewhat. "We don't respond to pressure, we respond to compulsory legal process," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "There has never been a time we have been pressured to turn over data — we fight every time we believe the legal process is insufficient. The legal standards for compelling a company to turn over data are determined by the laws of the country, and we respect that standard."

You can watch Assange make his argument in the video below (the Facebook section starts at the 2-minute mark):