Facebook Is a Snitch

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but sharing your private life online can be dangerous. Government agents are among those who use social media to gather intelligence. Sometimes they have the help of their targets and the assistance of the platforms. Because the information can be easily obtained, police and private sector contractors spy on us to not only investigate criminal activity but also for any other purpose. Even worse, politicians are eager to do more than stop such abuses.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, “Social media have become an important source of information for U.S. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies.” A report was released by last week. Federal agencies routinely monitor social networks for purposes that range from investigating to identifying terrorists to screening travellers and immigrants.

This problem of the government monitoring social media accounts is not new. To force the disclosure of monitoring abilities on social media, the American Civil Liberties Union sued federal authorities in 2019. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ordered Customs and Border Protection last September to disclose its surveillance rules. Soon after, we discovered that Customs and Border Protect regularly ran names of persons of interest including activists and journalists through their databases. They also checked these people against social media information from private companies.

In social media surveillance, private contractors play an important role. According to The FBI, Dataminr was used for many years by agents and analysts. It alerted them to critical social media news postings, including when, where, and how frequently key words and phrases are found in these posts. Washington Post.

ZeroFox is a service similar to the FBI’s. The FBI changed its 2019 location in 2019. Some FBI agents blamed the switchover for their failure to predict the Capitol riot of January 6. They claimed that the transition led to them missing key-word searches and posts which could have been indicators of future events. This is a stretching claim, however, as even the government admits to having difficulty separating serious intent from memes and jokes when trying to determine if someone intends to do illegal acts.

“[A]ctual intent to carry out violence can be difficult to discern from the angry, hyperbolic—and constitutionally protected—speech and information commonly found on social media and other online platforms,” Melissa Smislova, former head of Intelligence and Analysis for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last March.

The Brennan Center emphasizes this challenge, pointing out that “[s]Because they can often be highly contextualized and filled with jokes, memes or sarcasm as well as references to popular culture, it is difficult to interpret ocial media conversations.

It is particularly easy to use heated rhetoric IntentionallyMisinterpret what law enforcement agents do when they are pressured to identify a criminal or bias against someone. Brennan Center’s focus is on risks of mining social media “for Black, Latino and Muslim communities that have been historically targeted by law enforcement intelligence efforts and intelligence efforts”. There is no doubt that agents motivated racial and ethnic animus could easily spin off-the-cuff tweets and posts. The fractured America of today makes it clear that biases in politics are a problem. AlsoLaw enforcement can be dangerous when they go on the search for protesters who have been wronged or to find out about those critics.

Of course, agents aren’t required to collect data from companies. Vox’s Recode reports that when FBI investigated the movement of suspect participants in January 6 Riot, telecom companies provided the location of their cellphones. Facebook posted selfies inside the Capitol and Google gave precise data.

“Rather than revealing the breadth of the FBI’s domestic surveillance capabilities, the majority of cases show the power of the tech industry to collect and collate vast amounts of data on its users—and their obligation to share that data with law enforcement when asked,” Vox’s Sara Morrison wrote.

Law enforcement officers have been under increasing pressure over the last year to take part in more serious crimes. MoreMonitoring social media due to its inability to predict the January 6th riot.

“You know what, I believe that in part is an intelligence fail that is the failure of seeing all the evidence of violence propensity that day, most of which was on social media,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D.Calif.), said last week. We are looking for answers to the question of why FBI and Department of Homeland Security didn’t see the evidence as clearly as they ought.

Critics of the alleged intelligence failures in law enforcement admit that both the FBI and its sister agencies are guilty of an awful history of abuses against minorities, peaceful political activists and anti-war activists. It would be better if they did. The abuses have been well-documented.

“[T]he FBI … has placed more emphasis on domestic dissent than on organized crime and, according to some, let its efforts against foreign spies suffer because of the amount of time spent checking up on American protest groups,” as the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee noted in 1976.

However, their conclusion is that the feds misunderstoodly put certain groups under the microscope and it should expand its surveillance activities in the future. Their goal is not to curb abusive surveillance but rather make it easier for previously exclusion groups to have a chance. It might sound a little more fair, according to some interpretations of the word, however, it can also be extremely dangerous.

According to the Brennan Center, “Government surveillance of social media could be detrimental in at least four ways.” The Brennan Center report states that the following can be done: (1) incorrectly incriminating an individual or group for criminal behavior based upon their activities on social networking; (2) misinterpreting what social media activity means, sometimes with serious consequences; (3) suppressing people’s desire to communicate or connect online; and (4) invading someone’s privacy.

Monitoring social media can be done so quickly and easily that it is difficult to imagine the practice being stopped. It’s best to not take photos at protests until you find a better way to control government surveillance. Also, think about how officials might interpret what you put online.