Social networks, surveillance, and terrorism

January 10, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: stock image)

“We are creating systems of comprehensive surveillance in which a billion people are involved and those people’s lives are being lived under a kind of scrutiny which no secret police service is the 20th century could ever have aspired to achieve,” claims militant digital privacy advocate Eben Moglen, Betabeat reports.

“And all of that data is being collected and sold by people whose goal it is to make a profit selling the ability to control human beings by knowing more about themselves than they know,” he says. “You are more heavily surveilled than the KGB or Stasi or Securitate or any other secret police ever surveilled anybody… We have an enormous ecological disaster created by badly-designed social media now being used by people to control and exploit human beings in all sorts of ways.”

In September, Facebook announced a brand new type of profile called Timeline, where your whole personal history is laid out month-by-month, all the way back to your birth. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is unhappy with the way Facebook launched Timeline, and sent a letter to the FTC on Dec. 27 asking it to investigate, ZDNET reports. EPIC says Facebook went too far because it started rolling out the redesign without asking users first. Facebook would love to have everyone fill in their past, of course; it provides yet another set of data that advertisers can exploit, New Scientist reports.

But uploading our entire lives could have more long-term consequences than a few targeted ads, experts warn.

Terrorists recruiting on Facebook

According to a new study just announced by Prof. Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa, hackers invading databases — like the recent huge security breach of Stratfor (including defense, intelligence and police officials, The Guardian now reports) — is just the tip of the iceberg in online terrorist activity. International terrorist organizations have shifted their Internet activity focus to social networks and a number of Facebook groups are asking users to join and support Hezbollah, Hamas and other armed groups that have been included in the West’s list of declared terror organizations.

“Today, about 90% of organized terrorism on the Internet is being carried out through the social media. By using these tools, the organizations are able to be active in recruiting new friends without geographical limitations,” says Weimann.

Over the past ten years, he has been conducting a study of encoded and public Internet sites of international terror organizations, groups supporting these organizations, forums, video clips, and whatever information relating to global terrorism is running through the network.

The following correspondence, for example, was easily found on the open, non-coded forum belonging to Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades: “I have a kilogram of acetone. I want to know how to make an explosive with it to blow up a military jeep.” A forum member promptly responded with descriptive instructions on how to turn the explosive liquid into a destructive tool.