NYPD officers accessed Black Lives Matter activists’ texts, documents show

Exclusive: Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal details of how police posed as protesters amid unrest following the death of Eric Garner
People protest after a grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case.

Undercover officers in the New York police department infiltrated small groups of Black Lives Matter activists and gained access to their text messages, according to newly released NYPD documents obtained by the Guardian.

The records, produced in response to a freedom of information lawsuit led by New York law firm Stecklow & Thompson, provide the most detailed picture yet of the sweeping scope of NYPD surveillance during mass protests over the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and 2015. Lawyers said the new documents raised questions about NYPD compliance with city rules.

The documents, mostly emails between undercover officers and other NYPD officials, follow other disclosures that the NYPD regularly filmed Black Lives Matter activists and sent undercover personnel to protests. The NYPD has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment or interview.

Emails show that undercover officers were able to pose as protesters even within small groups, giving them extensive access to details about protesters’ whereabouts and plans. In one email, an official notes that an undercover officer is embedded within a group of seven protesters on their way to Grand Central Station. This intimate access appears to have helped police pass as trusted organizers and extract information about demonstrations. In other emails, officers share the locations of individual protesters at particular times. The NYPD emails also include pictures of organizers’ group text exchanges with information about protests, suggesting that undercover officials were either trusted enough to be allowed to take photos of activists’ phones or were themselves members of a private planning group text.

protesters text message
Police obtained access to protesters’ text messages, the documents show. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
“That text loop was definitely just for organizers, I don’t know how that got out,” said Elsa Waithe, a Black Lives Matter organizer. “Someone had to have told someone how to get on it, probably trusting someone they had seen a few times in good faith. We clearly compromised ourselves.”

Keegan Stephan, a regular attendee of the Grand Central protests in 2014 and 2015, said information about protesters’ whereabouts was limited to a small group of core organizers at that time. “I feel like the undercover was somebody who was or is very much a part of the group, and has access to information we only give to people we trust,” said Stephan, who has been assisting attorneys with a lawsuit to obtain the documents on behalf of plaintiff James Logue, a protester. “If you’re walking to Grand Central with a handful of people for an action, that’s much more than just showing up to a public demonstration – that sounds like a level of friendship.”

Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and professor at John Jay College, agreed that it would not be easy for an undercover officer to join a small group of protesters and hear their plans. “It would be pretty amazing that they would be able to get into the core group in such a short window of time,” said Giacalone. “This could have been going on a while before for these people to get so close to the inner circle.”

The NYPD documents also included a handful of pictures and one short video taken at Grand Central Station demonstrations. Most are pictures of crowds milling about or taking part in demonstrations. In one picture of a small group of activists, the NYPD identifies an individual in a brown jacket as the “main protester”. These images of protesters are reminiscent of those taken by undercover transit police, who were also deployed to Black Lives Matter protests in Grand Central Station in 2015.

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An individual is identified as the ‘main protester’. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
Giacalone said this type of leadership identification was standard police practice at protests. “If you take out the biggest mouth, everybody just withers away, so you concentrate on the ones you believe are your organizers,” he said. “Once you identify that person, you can run computer checks on them to see if they have a warrant out or any summons failures, then you can drag them in before they go out to speak or rile up the crowd, as long as you have reasonable cause to do so.”

Attorneys say the documents raise legal questions about whether the NYPD was acting in compliance with the department’s intelligence-gathering rules, known as the Handschu Guidelines. The guidelines, which are based on an ongoing decades-old class-action lawsuit, hold that the NYPD can begin formally investigating first amendment activity “when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that an unlawful act has been, is being, or will be committed” and if the police surveillance plan has been authorized by a committee known as the Handschu Authority. (That committee was exclusively staffed by NYPD officials at the time.) However, according to the guidelines, before launching a formal investigation, the NYPD can also conduct investigative work such as “checking of leads” and “preliminary inquiries” with even lower standards of suspicion.

Michael Price, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it was difficult to know whether NYPD’s undercover surveillance operations crossed the line, as the documents did not make clear what, if any, stage of investigation the police were in at the time of the operations. But he said the department’s retention of pictures and video raised questions, since police are not allowed to retain information about public events unless it relates to unlawful activity.

“So my question would be: what was the unlawful activity that police had reason to suspect here?” said Price. “It doesn’t appear that there was any criminal behavior they were talking about in the emails. Most references are to protesters being peaceful, so I would be very concerned if they were hinging their whole investigation on civil disobedience, such as unpermitted protests or blocking of pedestrians.”

Throughout the emails, the NYPD’s undercover sources provide little indication of any unlawful activity, frequently characterizing demonstrators as peaceful and orderly with only one mention of a single arrest.

“The documents uniformly show no crime occurring, but NYPD had undercovers inside the protests for months on end as if they were al-Qaida,” said David Thompson, an attorney of Stecklow & Thompson, who helped sue for the records.

Giacalone argued that police could have easily come up with a legal justification to initiate surveillance, especially if such operations occurred after the shooting of two NYPD officers in December of 2014 (all dates in the NYPD’s email communications were redacted). But he noted that such investigative activities would be harder to justify if officers were not directly observing signs of unlawful activity.

“If they’re not talking about any crimes being committed, they’re going to have a difficult time defending this. It may end up in another one of these lawsuits,” said Giacalone. “Some may say this is good police work, fine, but good police work or not, we have rules against this kind of thing in New York.”

Attorneys have already filed a petition charging that the NYPD may have failed to produce all of its surveillance records. But for some protesters, the damage has already been done.

“In the first couple of months, we had a lot of people in and out of the group, some because they didn’t fit our style but others because of the whispers that they were undercovers,” recalled Waithe. “Whether it was real or perceived, that was the most debilitating part for me, the whispers … It’s really hard to organize when you can’t trust each other.”

George Joseph in New York
Tuesday 4 April 2017 11.00 BST Last modified on Tuesday 4 April 2017 22.00 BST
Find this story at 4 April 2017

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Met police accused of using hackers to access protesters’ emails

Exclusive: Watchdog investigates claim that secretive unit worked with Indian police to obtain campaigners’ passwords

An anonymous letter claimed the Scotland Yard unit accessed activists’ email accounts for ‘a number of years’.

The police watchdog is investigating allegations that a secretive Scotland Yard unit used hackers to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists.

The allegations were made by an anonymous individual who says the unit worked with Indian police, who in turn used hackers to illegally obtain the passwords of the email accounts of the campaigners, and some reporters and press photographers.

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The person, who says he or she previously worked for the intelligence unit that monitors the activities of political campaigners, detailed their concerns in a letter to the Green party peer Jenny Jones. The peer passed on the allegations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating.

Hacked passwords were passed to the Metropolitan police unit, according to the writer of the letter, which then regularly checked the emails of the campaigners and the media to gather information. The letter to Jones listed the passwords of environmental campaigners, four of whom were from Greenpeace. Several confirmed they matched the ones they had used to open their emails.

The letter said: “For a number of years the unit had been illegally accessing the email accounts of activists. This has largely been accomplished because of the contact that one of the officers had developed with counterparts in India who in turn were using hackers to obtain email passwords.”

Jones said: “There is more than enough to justify a full-scale criminal investigation into the activities of these police officers and referral to a public inquiry. I have urged the Independent Police Complaints Commission to act quickly to secure further evidence and to find out how many people were victims of this nasty practice.”

The letter also alleges that emails of reporters and photographers, including two working for the Guardian, were monitored. A spokesperson for the Guardian said: “Allegations that the Metropolitan police has accessed the email accounts of Guardian journalists are extremely concerning and we expect a full and thorough investigation into these claims.”

The IPCC has for several months been investigating claims that the national domestic extremism and disorder intelligence unit shredded a large number of documents over a number of days in May 2014.

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Last month the IPCC said it had uncovered evidence suggesting the documents had been destroyed despite a specific instruction that files should be preserved to be examined by a judge-led public inquiry into the undercover policing of political groups.

The letter claimed that the shredding “has been happening for some time and on a far greater scale than the IPCC seems to be aware of”. The author added that “the main reason for destroying these documents is that they reveal that [police] officers were engaged in illegal activities to obtain intelligence on protest groups”.

The letter to Jones lists 10 individuals, alongside specific passwords that they used to access their email accounts. Lawyers at Bindmans, who are representing Jones, contacted six on the list and, after outlining the allegations, asked them to volunteer their passwords.

Five of them gave the identical password that had been identified in the letter. The sixth gave a password that was almost the same. The remaining four on the list have yet to be approached or cannot be traced.

Colin Newman has for two decades volunteered to help organise mainly local Greenpeace protests which he says were publicised to the media. He used the password specified in the letter for his private email account between the late 1990s and last year.

Newman said he felt “angry and violated, especially for the recipients”. He added: “I am open about my actions as I make a stand and am personally responsible for those, but it is not fair and just that others are scrutinised.

“I am no threat. There is no justification for snooping in private accounts unless you have a reason to do so, and you have the authority to do that.”

He said he had been cautioned by the police once, for trespassing on the railway during a protest against coal about two years ago.

Another on the list was Cat Dorey who has worked for Greenpeace, both as an employee and a volunteer, since 2001. She said all the protests she had been involved in were non-violent.

The password specified in the letter sent to Jones had been used for emails that contained private information about her family and friends.

She said: “Even though Greenpeace UK staff, volunteers, and activists were always warned to assume someone was listening to our phone conversations or reading our emails, it still came as a shock to find out I was being watched by the police. It’s creepy to think of strangers reading my personal emails.”

In 2005, she was part of a group of Greenpeace protesters who were sentenced to 80 hours of community service after installing solar panels on the home of the then deputy prime minister, John Prescott, in a climate change demonstration.

According to the letter, the “most sensitive side of the work was monitoring the email accounts of radical journalists who reported on activist protests (as well as sympathetic photographers) including at least two employed by the Guardian newspaper”. None were named.

Investigators working for the IPCC have met Jones twice with her lawyer, Jules Carey, and have asked to interview the peer. An IPCC spokesperson said: “After requesting and receiving a referral by the Metropolitan police service, we have begun an independent investigation related to anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data. We are still assessing the scope of the investigation and so we are not able to comment further.”

The letter’s writer said he or she had spoken out about the “serious abuse of power” because “over the years, the unit had evolved into an organisation that had little respect for the law, no regard for personal privacy, encouraged highly immoral activity and, I believe, is a disgrace”.

In recent years, the unit has monitored thousands of political activists, drawing on information gathered by undercover officers and informants as well as from open sources such as websites. Police chiefs say they need to keep track of a wide pool of activists to identify the small number who commit serious crime to promote their cause.

But the unit has come in for criticism after it was revealed to be compiling files on law-abiding campaigners, including John Catt, a 91-year-old pensioner with no criminal record as well as senior members of the Green party including the MP Caroline Lucas.

The Metropolitan police said the IPCC had made it “aware of anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data, and requested the matters were referred to them by the MPS. This was done. The MPS is now aware that the IPCC are carrying out an independent investigation.”

Rob Evans
Tuesday 21 March 2017 16.35 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 22 March 2017 00.50 GMT

Find this story at 22 March 2017

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

The letter I received about alleged police hacking shows how at risk we all are

The whistleblower lists damning claims of spying on innocent individuals by a secretive Scotland Yard unit. It’s now vital that we hold the police to account
‘When the police act with impunity all of our private lives are put at risk’

As the only Green party peer I receive a lot of post to my office in the House of Lords. Rarely, though, do I open letters like the one that has been revealed. The anonymous writer alleged that there was a secretive unit within Scotland Yard that has used hackers to illegally access the emails of campaigners and journalists. It included a list of 10 people and the passwords to their email accounts.

As soon as I read the first sentence of the letter, I knew the content would be astonishing – and when some aspects of the letter were corroborated by lawyers and those on the list – I was convinced that we owed it to this brave whistleblower to hold the police to account.

The list of allegations is lengthy. It includes illegal hacking of emails, using an Indian-based operation to do the dirty work, shredding documents and using sex as a tool of infiltration. And these revelations matter to all of us. None of us knows whether the police organised for our emails to be hacked, but all of us know the wide range of personal information that our emails contain. It might be medical conditions, family arguments, love lives or a whole range of drug- or alcohol-related misdemeanours.

When the police act with impunity, all of our private lives are put at risk. Whether you’re involved in a local campaign against library closures, a concerned citizen worried about air pollution or someone working for a charity – who’s to say that officers won’t be spying on the emails you send? The police put me on the domestic extremism database during the decade when I was on the Metropolitan Police Authority signing off their budgets and working closely with officers on the ground to fight crimes such as road crime and illegal trafficking. If someone in my position – no criminal record and on semi-friendly terms with the Met commissioner – can end up on the database, then you can too.

The truth is that without the bravery and professionalism of two serving police officers who have blown the whistle on state snooping I would know nothing about my files, and those of other campaigners, being shredded by the Domestic Extremism Unit. We would have had no suspicion that those files had been shredded to cover up the illegal hacking of personal and work e-mails by the police.

Please don’t fall for the old establishment lie that the problem is a few rotten apples. This alleged criminality is the result of a deliberate government policy of using the police and security services to suppress dissent and protest in order to protect company profits and the status quo. Such an approach inevitably leads to police officers overstepping the mark as they feel emboldened by those at the top levels of government and an immunity from prosecution provided by senior officers keen to please the people who decide their budgets.

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The police don’t always act as neutral agents of the law. We know that the Thatcher government’s determination to break the miners’ strike led to the Orgreave confrontation in 1984. There are still allegations about the links between the police and those running blacklisting databases that led to hundreds of construction workers being condemned to unemployment and poverty.

And don’t mistake this for a partisan attack on Conservative politicians. Theresa May has forced through the draconian Investigatory Powers Act, but the Labour party too has been timid at best in opposing this snoopers’ charter. Indeed it was the Blair government that left a legacy of draconian public order laws, and which broadly defined the anti-terrorism legislation upon which an edifice of modern surveillance powers has been constructed.

Many are unaware that joining an anti-fracking group, or going on a demonstration, could get you labelled a domestic extremist, photographed, questioned and followed for months or even years – without ever having been convicted of a crime.

It’s only by speaking out against these intrusions that we are able to challenge this rotten culture of impunity. After all, it was David Cameron who gave us the Hillsborough inquiry and Theresa May who set up the Pitchford inquiry into undercover officers. Politicians don’t always do things for good reasons, but they do respond to public pressure.

Change is possible, but in the meantime, we should be doing everything we can to make it hard for the police to spy on us. Use encryption, two-step email security and other precautions suggested by organisations such as Liberty. Don’t stop saying what you think, or working to make the world a better place, but do assume that the police will be working to protect the companies, banks or energy companies that you want to challenge.

It isn’t how things should be, but the evidence shows that is the way things are.

A campaign to get the police out of the lives of environmentalists and social justice campaigners is a good start, but it will fail unless it reaches out – starting by working with those in the Muslim community intimidated by Prevent.

Above all, we must convince the middle ground of society that everyone will be safer if the security services focused on what we all want them to do – stopping terrorists and serious criminals. This is not unreasonable, and the starting point is a change to the legislation so that it narrows the definition of terrorism to exclude the nonviolent, noisy and rebellious

Wednesday 22 March 2017 15.23 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 22 March 2017 17.29 GMT
Jenny Jones
Find this story at 22 March 2017

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Going global: the UK government’s ‘CVE’ agenda, counter-radicalisation and covert propaganda

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts, the government tells us, “address the root causes of extremism through community engagement”. But could this globalising project have counter-productive consequences?

Earlier this week the advocacy group CAGE and the Guardian both published revelations concerning a covert propaganda programme run by the UK Home Office as part of the Prevent programme.

We have been investigating the government Research and Information Communications Unit (RICU), the PR agency Breakthrough Media and the many ‘grassroots’ campaigns they worked with for almost a year with varying degrees of complicity. We have only published a small amount of the information we amassed and expect the Guardian and other journalists to reveal more in the coming days.

In this article we show how those orchestrating the campaigns have global ambitions – and despite the abject lack of debate – how the UK’s “industrial scale propaganda” programme is already being held up as best practice by the EU and UN.

The story so far
Over the past five years, the Home Office and a secretive government department called RICU, the Research, Information and Communications Unit, has been cultivating a network of ‘grassroots’ Muslim voices to promote ‘counter-narratives’ that combat the appeal of an ill-defined ‘extremism’ among Britain’s Muslim youth. Parliament has not been informed of these activities and the policy has been kept from public scrutiny by draconian secrecy legislation and the veil of ‘national security’.

Working with specialist PR agencies and new media companies to target young people who fit the profile of ‘vulnerable young Muslim’, RICU’s interventions represent the first concerted foray into cyberspace by the British state with the aim of covertly engineering the thoughts of its citizens. In practice this means the chosen ‘grassroots’ organisations and ‘counter-narratives’ receive financial and technical support from the government for the production of their multimedia campaigns (videos, websites, podcasts, blogs etc).

These state-sponsored ‘counter-narratives’ are in turn promoted to specific groups of internet users, chosen on the basis of their demographics, the websites they visit, the social media accounts they ‘follow’, and the search terms they use.

It has now been revealed that the following ‘grassroots’ campaigns have received some kind of support from the Home Office, RICU or Breakthrough Media: My 2012 Dream, Return to Somalia, Help for Syria, Faith on the Frontline, Families matter, Imams online, Not another brother, Ummah Sonic, The fightback starts here, Open Your Eyes: Isis Lies, The truth about Isis, and Making a Stand. At issue is not what these initiatives stand for, or even that they are government supported, but that they are presented as independent, community-based campaigns.

While the government has defended RICU’s programme as some kind of ‘necessary evil’, we should not be duped. When democratic governments start using community groups and NGOs to disseminate government propaganda and hoodwink the public into believing they are authentic ‘grassroots’ campaigns, it damages everyone in civil society. Democracy requires clear lines between the security state and the police on the one hand, and civil society, public and social services on the other.

Breakthrough Media – an official secret no more

Fair use.
Breakthrough Media is the government’s go-to creative media agency for its “counter-narratives”. It specializes in “emotionally driven films, campaigns and other communications products” and its clients include government and intergovernmental agencies (UK, US, European Union, African Union, United Nations) and various NGOs. It has offices in London, Nairobi and Mogadishu and employs 100 people across Europe and East Africa.

Some of Breakthrough’s work for the UK government has been protected by the Official Secrets Act – an extraordinary use of national security legislation to conceal the activities of a government-contracted PR company.

Breakthrough was founded by Managing Director Robert Elliot, and originally called “Camden Creative”, which was incorporated in 2008. Camden Creative operated as a drama and documentaries production company that delivered a ten-part reality drama series for Channel 5 and a one-off documentary about the Mayor of Mogadishu for Al Jazeera English. The name of the company was changed to “Breakthrough Media” on 27 November 2012. Breakthrough’s CEO is Scott Brown, appointed on 17 August 2012. Brown was formerly an account director at M&C Saatchi and Deputy Chief of Staff at Bell Pottinger (the UK’s biggest PR company) in Nairobi.

Breakthrough has earned £11.8m from the UK government since 2012. Lest there be any doubt about the commitment of the UK government to this cause, it has just asked PR companies to pitch for a further £60 million.

Horizon PR

Fair use.
Horizon PR was incorporated in March 2015 and is part of the M&C Saatchi Group, the international PR and advertising group formed by Maurice and Charles Saatchi after they were ousted from their original firm, Saatchi and Saatchi. Horizon has five directors: Robert Elliot and Scott Brown of Breakthrough Media, and Andrew Blackstone, Molly Aldridge and Marcus Peffers from the M&C Saatchi group. Blackstone and Aldridge are senior executives at M&C Saatchi, while Peffers was a senior account director who founded the company’s World Services division in 2011 to bring the “experience and creative capabilities” of the agency to “help tackle complex behavioural and social issues in fragile states and developing markets”. M&C Saatchi’s World Services works with a range of national and international governments, IGOs, INGOs and foundations and is among the group’s most successful divisions. Feffers has also worked at a senior advisory level with successive UK governments, including HMT, the FCO, the Home Office, HMRC and Number 10, and oversaw M&C Saatchi’s campaign to keep Scotland in the Union on behalf of the three main UK political parties.

Horizon provides PR solutions to “ethnic, social and faith based issues” to clients including “non-government and civil-society groups who want to improve and increase the impact and scale of their activity and better reach audiences at a local, regional, national and international level”. This is achieved through “creative news generation, traditional and social media campaigns and targeted events”. In launching Horizon, Breakthrough and the Saatchis are clearly betting on a big future in communicating government messages on sensitive issues such as “terrorism” and “extremism”.

Hand-in-hand: censorship and propaganda
The lengths of the UK’s covert propaganda programme appear even more extraordinary in the context of the government’s mass censorship of the internet – something which can only be achieved with the cooperation of internet service providers and social media companies.

Since the Edward Snowden revelations, and having realized that working hand-in-glove with the “Five Eyes” global surveillance system was not good for their reputation or business prospects, Silicon Valley appears to have enjoyed a much less comfortable relationship with western governments. Some of its biggest names have taken formal positions that distance themselves from government surveillance, and introduced corresponding procedures designed to reassure and protect their users.

But Silicon Valley has been unable to extricate itself from the broader ‘war on terror’ and ad hoc public-private partnerships have emerged to address demands from law enforcement and intelligence agencies to block “terrorist propaganda”. In the UK, this process has essentially replicated the model developed to combat the proliferation of child pornography on the internet.

As with child porn, states have passed laws banning the production and dissemination of terrorist propaganda, providing grounds for the state to request companies to close accounts or block websites (so-called “notice and take-down” requests) said to contravene national law. In the absence of obvious legal breaches, the censors argue that the content breaches the provider’s terms of service.

The UK has pioneered the censorship of “terrorist” content, having established the world’s first Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU) in 2010, modelled on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency. CITRU is the central contact point for police and intelligence officers seeking to block web pages or close social media accounts, and refers their requests to service providers, search engines and content platforms. By December 2015, CITRU claimed to have taken down “more than 120,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content online” since 2010, with one-third removed in 2015.

In practice, content hosted outside the UK (as most “terrorist propaganda” is) is not actually “taken down” – access is instead blocked by British ISPs (and can therefore be easily circumvented). Nor do these figures include independent action by social media companies. In February 2016, Twitter announced that it had shut down more than 125,000 ISIS related accounts.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the EU launched a Europe-wide blocking system modelled on CITRU. The EU Counter-terrorism Internet Referral Unit began operating in July 2015 and is housed at Europol.

You would instinctively think that “terrorist propaganda” means the horrific videos of ISIS beheadings and such like, yet violent material is said to make up just 2% of what is blocked. Regardless, the level of censorship of terrorists and extremists has now reached levels that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But this is only one side of the story.

Silicon Valley and counter-narratives
Having played ball with content take-down, the Silicon Valley behemoths have also increasingly embraced the “counter-narrative” agenda – an agenda they are of course uniquely placed to implement. In February 2015, a “White House Summit To Counter Violent Extremism” gathered foreign leaders, United Nations officials, and “a broad range of international representatives and members of civil society”.

Following the summit, the White House announced several new initiatives. First, the US government would organize “technology camps” alongside social media companies, which will “work with governments, civil society and religious leaders to develop digital content that discredits violent extremist narratives and amplifies positive alternatives”. Second, the US will partner with the United Arab Emirates to create a “digital communications hub that will counter ISIL’s propaganda and recruitment efforts, both directly and through engagement with civil society, community, and religious leaders”. In other words: the stratosphere that includes organisations RICU, CITRU, Breakthrough, ‘grassroots’.

While Facebook and Google were tight-lipped, a Twitter spokesman stated that they “support counterspeech efforts around the world and we plan to participate in this effort through third-party NGOs”. Twitter has also run a series of workshops for UK NGOs concerned with countering extremism to help them enhance their presence on social media.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee in February 2016, Google announced that it was going one step further and “piloting two pilot programmes. One is to make sure that these types of videos [counter-narratives] are more discoverable on YouTube. The other one is to make sure when people put potentially damaging search terms into our search engine… they also find this counter-narrative”. It was later clarified that the programme took the form of “free Google AdWords” to enable NGOs to place “counter-radicalisation adverts against search queries of their choosing”.

To be clear about what this means in practice, imagine an internet user fitting the profile of ‘impressionable young Muslim’ (as defined by Prevent), searching Google for “Syria war” (or clicking on a Facebook link about it) and being referred to Breakthrough’s Open Your Eyes: Isis Lies campaign, among others. And as we know from the Snowden revelations, these searches will be logged and investigated by the intelligence services.

The symbolism of all of this cannot be understated. Removing one kind of ‘propaganda’ and promoting another at the request of governments – or via government-backed NGOs or contractors – is a far cry from the free speech-cum-great leveller Silicon Valley told us to believe in.

And as well-intentioned as their interventions may be, having embarked on this slippery slope, can or should we now expect the likes of Google to assist in re-directing would be white supremacists to #blacklivesmatter websites, or Europe’s growing army of neo-Nazis to #hopenothate?

Your answer to this question should help you think through the legitimacy of what has been revealed to address ‘radicalisation’ among Muslims.

Against Violent Extremism Network

Fair use.
The Against Violent Extremism (AVE) Network is a partnership between Google Ideas, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Gen Next Foundation (GNF). GNF, which initially described itself as an “exclusive membership organization and platform for successful individuals” committed to social change through venture capital funding, “aspires to solve the greatest generational challenges of our time using a unique hybrid of private sector and non-profit business models – called a venture philanthropy model”. Its core areas are education, economic opportunity and global security.

AVE was hatched at the 2011 Google Ideas (now ‘Jigsaw’) Summit Against Violent Extremism and is managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. It claims to have brought together “hundreds of former extremists and survivors of violent extremism to fight back against online extremist messaging and recruitment”. In 2015, AVE claimed to have “over 2,000 members globally”, “over 60 counter-extremism projects” and “partnerships with global technology firms including Twitter and Facebook”.

The counter-narratives projects incubated and assisted by AVE are believed to include myextremism.org, a juvenile platform for “extremists against extremism”, and Abdullah X, the former extremist turned ‘down with the kids’ cartoon ‘Jihobbyist’.

‘Abdullah-X’ – the counter-narratives’ poster boy
Abdullah-X says: “I am here to deliver awareness, develop and divert young Muslims from the path of relying solely on information that can take them on a journey towards extremism and hate. You will find me in content that is created to instil critical thinking and understanding in the minds of those who are often vulnerable to the messaging of extremist ideologies.”

The ‘street-savvy’ looking cartoon character, complete with chains and corn-rows, is given a Muslim name with the suffix ‘X’, an obvious reference to Malcolm X, and a means of co-opting a legacy that disenfranchised youth may respect. Abdullah-X’s videos attempt to take on contentious issues within the Muslim world, providing a ‘counter-narrative’ to questions that many Muslims have. In one video, he considers Palestine and the growing call to boycott Israel, by questioning what it can achieve: “I wonder, is all my plaque waving and shouting in anger to others a Sunnah? I mean in truth, will my ‘peaceful protest’ for Gaza truly aid the Palestinian people or does it aid my ego… What is the bigger picture?”

For Abdullah-X, the bigger picture is not Israeli occupation and apartheid, but the failure of the Arab world to intervene in Gaza: “Because they live in the shadow of their paymasters… sadly their paymasters are not those who follow the Sunnah.” This ahistorical presentation is part of a wider trend in which Abdullah-X seeks to depoliticise British Islam in favour of shallower spiritual reflection.

Abdullah-X claims that he was a former adherent of Abu Hamza al-Masri and Omar Bakri Mohammed. He claims that his position as a former extremist uniquely places to deter others from following similar routes. He now has a female sidekick in Muslimah-X.

One of the most astonishing achievements of the counter-radicalisation industry is its burial of the idea that the people best-placed to deter individuals from extremism, might actually be those who have never engaged in any form of it.

In an interview with On the Media on 19 June 2015, Abdullah-X was asked if he is funded by MI6 or some other entity. He responded with the claim that the cartoon is “…a self funded project of myself and a few like-minded people.”

Fair use.

Going global
The 2015 White House Summit on Combating Violent Extremism was more a product than a catalyst of the global CVE agenda, which has been developing under the auspices of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF). The GCTF is an informal group of 29 states plus the European Union launched in no small part because of resistance to the dominant security and counter-terrorism paradigm at the UN on the part of many developing countries, which served to prevent those states most invested in the ‘war on terror’ from enhancing their operational cooperation through UN mechanisms.

The UK co-chairs, in partnership with the United Arab Emirates, the GCTF’s CVE working group, which held its inaugural meeting in Abu Dhabi in April 2012. The minutes report that “The UK opened the session by underscoring the belief common to many GCTF members: that countering violent extremism is a battle of ideas; in such a battle, altering the grounds of debate and countering radical messages are vital.”

The following year, the GCTF organised the UN Conference on “Best Practice in Communications” in June 2013 in London. The meeting was co-chaired by Richard Chalk, then head of RICU. It recommended that “practitioners must take a strategic approach to CVE communications work and articulate the totality of a government’s engagement on a given issue”; that “messages should be simple, concise, tailored, and delivered by credible messengers”; and that “policies must be aligned with messages in order to be credible”.

Countering violent extremism… with our friends in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh
The GCTF has also launched the Hedayah Center of Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, based in Abu Dhabi, to which at least one British government official is seconded. Hedayah’s publications include “National CVE Strategies: Guidelines and Good Practices”, a document that draws heavily on the Prevent school of counter-extremism. Hedayah has been lavished with US, EU and Gulf state funding, and is the obvious home for the UAE-based “digital communications hub” to counter ISIL propaganda announced by the White House last year.

Hedayah also hosted the GLOBAL CVE EXPO in December 2014, which stressed the need for “more effective collaboration on counter-narratives, drawing from experiences of policymakers, practitioners and industry/private sector representatives”. The month before it held an expert workshop on counter-narratives which extolled the virtues of using “victims, formers and ex-prisoners” in counter-narrative products.

The irony of establishing an International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism in a country whose CVE efforts include a strict ban on the regime’s political opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood, the mass deportation of Shi’a residents, and hiring Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (now Academi), to form secret, mercenary armies, is not lost on all observers. In advance of the White House CVE summit, Steven Hawkins, director of Amnesty International USA, warned that abusive regimes could take advantage of ‘CVE-mania’ and use international funding to violate human rights in the absence of appropriate safeguards.

The UK is also exporting its counter-narratives programme through the EU and the UN. The former has established the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) under the ‘PREVENT’ strand of the EU Counter-Terrorism strategy, which has a dedicated Communication and Narratives Working Group. The WG is co-chaired by Najeeb Ahmed, a Home Office Prevent coordinator, and Guillaume de Saint Marc, CEO of the French Association of Victims of Terrorism. The RAN network also has a Working Group on the Internet and Social Media, co-chaired by Yasmin Green (Google Ideas) and Rachel Briggs (Institute for Strategic Dialogue). RAN’s Issue Paper on Counter Narratives and Alternative Narratives reads as if it was written by RICU.

Similarly, the UN had a Working Group on the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes, under the auspices of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. This appears to have been disbanded, and its work taken-up the GCTF, but not before it had staged the Riyadh Conference on “Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence” in 2011. This in a country declared an “Enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders and notorious for the mass beheading of alleged terrorists, apostates and blasphemers.

The Riyadh conference, which was co-funded by the German government and the Saudi royal family, brought together around 150 policy-makers, experts and practitioners from the public sector, international organisations, industry, academia and the media. The speakers included Christopher Wainwright (RICU) and Jared Cohen (Google Ideas). Top of the list of summit Recommendations was to “Promote counter-narratives through all relevant media channels (online, print, TV/Radio)”.

Under the heading “Credible Messengers as Important as the Message”, the summary of the proceedings produced by the CTITF records:

Leaving aside the many dubious assertions in this passage, when a UN Working Group meets in Saudi Arabia to recommend that security and intelligence agencies recruit former extremists and provide them with institutional homes in fake NGOs to produce state propaganda, things have clearly gone badly awry.

Do as I say not as I do
As we said in our report, there is nothing objectionable in principle about grassroots activism that tries to steer people away from violence and ‘extremism’ – or any form of other ‘-ism’ for that matter. Indeed, freedom to engage in whatever kind of non-violent activism one chooses gets to the heart of what it means to live in a democracy that holds freedom of expression dear.

But there has to be a basic degree of transparency and accountability, without which communities will not trust government, and people will not trust anyone. They need to be confident in the difference between government propaganda and genuine activism. They need to know that non-governmental organisations and grassroots organisations are independent of government and corporations, or otherwise open about their relationship to them. When civil society organisations become tools of government or business, it damages the non-profit sector as a whole.

This week’s revelations are symptomatic of the capture of government policy by an increasingly influential counter-radicalisation industry. Yet for all the best practice and international recommendations described above, radicalisation theory is still mired in Islamophobic bunkum, with no reliable metrics through which to substantiate its claims of effectiveness, and no evidence to support the assertion that the UK’s Prevent programme has been anything other than a divisive failure.

As a paper by the International Centre for Counter-terrorism in the Hague suggests: “Doing the right thing rather than saying the right thing produces, ideally, the stronger narrative and in that sense the interaction patterns between host community and vulnerable youth constitute a non-verbal message that might better manage to prevent extremists gaining more ground in a community”.

BEN HAYES and ASIM QURESHI 4 May 2016

Find this story at 4 May 2016

British anti-extremism agencies are working at an ‘industrial scale and pace’ and using Cold War tactics to combat ISIS propaganda

Terror group puts out around 18 messages a day to its followers
Government has set up covert group to counter radical propaganda
David Cameron is to announce new laws targeting hate preachers

A covert unit set up to tackle extremism is working ‘at an industrial scale and pace’ as it attempts to counter the barrage of ISIS propaganda online.

The Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), a little-known group set up by the UK government, is using Cold War tactics to stop the spread of radical jihadism.

Some of the methods used by the unit emerged today as David Cameron prepares to announce tough new laws to crack down on extremism.

Radical material is now available to anyone wanting to access it as jihadists flood the web with propaganda
+3
Radical material is now available to anyone wanting to access it as jihadists flood the web with propaganda

RICU was set up in response to the July 7 terror attacks in 2005, but the importance of its role has increased with the rise of ISIS, who now put out an estimated 18 messages a day to their followers.

The slick production techniques behind ISIS’s infamous beheading videos and the terrorists’ use of social media to spread them has meant even the most extreme propaganda can be accessed in homes, schools and workplaces around the world.

It emerged today that RICU often conceals the origin of information it sends out over fears that knowing it came from the government would undermine its credibility in the eyes of some young Muslims.

One initiative, which portrays itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees, has spoken to thousands of students at university freshers’ fairs without any of them realising they were engaging with a government programme.

The Help for Syria campaign has distributed leaflets to 760,000 homes without the recipients realising they were government communications.

Meanwhile, some of the group’s work has been outsourced to a communications firm, Breakthrough Media Network, which produced websites, leaflets and social media pages with titles such as The Truth about ISIS,The Guardian revealed.

The tactics used by a government counter-extremism group, which include setting up the Help for Syria campaign (website pictured), emerged today as the government plans a new crackdown on hate preachers
The tactics used by a government counter-extremism group, which include setting up the Help for Syria campaign (website pictured), emerged today as the government plans a new crackdown on hate preachers

The methods have been criticised as ‘deceptive’ by critics, with human rights lawyer Imran Khan telling the newspaper: ‘This government needs to stop thinking of young British Muslims as some sort of fifth column that it needs to deal with.’

But the Home Office insisted RICU’s work could involve ‘sensitive issues’ and some of the organisations it worked with did not want to publicly reveal the relationship with the Government.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘The battle against terrorism and extremism must be fought on several fronts including countering its twisted narrative online and in our communities. The need for this work is recognised at a national and international level.

Videos including those of Jihadi John, since killed, have been used by ISIS to spread hate
Videos including those of Jihadi John, since killed, have been used by ISIS to spread hate

‘As the Prime Minister has said, we face a generational challenge and it is vital we work in partnership with communities, civil society groups and individuals to confront extremism in all its forms.

‘This has been a key part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy since publication of the Prevent review in 2011.

‘We are very proud of the support RICU has provided to organisations working on the front line to challenge the warped ideology of groups such as Daesh [ISIS], and to protect communities.

‘This work can involve sensitive issues, vulnerable communities and hard to reach audiences and it has been important to build relationships out of the media glare.

‘We respect the bravery of individuals and organisations who choose to speak out against violence and extremism and it is right that we support, empower and protect them.

‘Our guiding principle has to be whether or not any organisation we work with is itself happy to talk publicly about what they do. At the same time we are as open as possible about RICU’s operating model, and have referenced the role of RICU in a number of publications and in Parliament.’

By RICHARD SPILLETT FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 08:16 GMT, 3 May 2016 | UPDATED: 10:02 GMT, 3 May 2016

Find this story at 3 May 2016

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Saudi Arabia: prime centre of content blocking

The Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) the Internet Services Unit (ISU)

Surveillance and censorship of the Internet, relentless in the kingdom for many years, intensified after the popular uprisings in the Arab world in 2011, cutting still further the only free space where non-official views, news and information could be published. The latest target in the Saudi authorities’ sights is the video platform YouTube, which has been blocked since last December. Six months earlier, the Viber messaging service was cut off.

The main Internet Enemies are the Communication and Information Technology Commission and the Internet Services Unit. Far from concealing their actions, the authorities openly attest to their censorship practices and claim to have blocked some 400,000 sites.

The main regulatory agencies

The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has been responsible for regulating the Internet in the country since 2006, censoring thousands of websites.

The Saudi Arabian National Center for Science & Technology (SANCST) was established as an independent scientific organization in 1977 to promote the development of science and technology in Saudi Arabia. There was a change of direction in 1985, when the centre became the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). This is the backbone of the Internet in Saudi Arabia and the place where all Saudi domain names are registered. Since October 2006, the CITC has taken over its content-filtering role.

Citizens are encouraged to report sites with a view to having them blocked. These requests, previously centralized and managed by the Internet Services Unit (ISU), linked to the KACST, are now handled by the CITC, as stated on the ISU site. It takes just a few mouse-clicks for a user to report a site or a page to be blocked or unblocked.

Late last year, after an article was published in the newspaper Al-Hayat, there was a rumour that the Saudi broadcasting authorities wanted to create a new body to censor and monitor video content on YouTube and other sites.

Another idea under consideration was to require Saudis who wanted to share videos online to obtain a permit from this new agency and comply with its terms and conditions for the production of content. Only YouTube use compatible with Saudi “culture, values and traditions” would be permitted. It was not clear whether such censorship would apply to videos posted in Saudi Arabia itself or to all YouTube content. The head of the commission was critical of the article, but he stopped short of denying it.

The whole thing was tied together by the state-owned company Saudi Telecom Company (STC), which for long was the country’s sole telecoms operator for mobile and Internet technology before the market was opened up. However, all licences of private companies are granted by the STC.

Internet cafés are also monitored. They must have concealed video cameras and keep an accurate record of their customers and note their identities.

The licence – stamp of approval

Culture and information minister Abdul Aziz Khoja, published new regulations for news and information websites in January 2011 aimed at reinforcing Internet censorship and dissuading Web users from creating their own sites and blogs.

According article 7 of the regulations, online media, the websites of so-called traditional media and platforms offering audio and video content or advertising now have to register with, and receive accreditation from, the culture and information ministry for a licence that must renewed every three years. A licence is valid for only three years. An applicant must be a Saudi national, aged at least 20, have a high school qualification and be able to produce “documents testifying to good conduct.”

All these online media will also have to identify the company that hosts them. According to the original regulations, the ministry would also have had to approve the editor of each online newspaper, who would be the guarantor of the site’s entire content. However, the minister scrapped this provision after an outcry. The ministry will now just have to be notified of the editor’s name. Its approval will not be required.

Online forums, blogs, personal websites, distribution lists, electronic archives and chat sites thereafter had to be registered. Bloggers were able to identify themselves “if they want,” but anonymity was clearly regarded as undesirable. Last month the authorities ruled that bloggers must use their real names.

Under article 17, any breach of these regulations will incur a fine and a partial or total block on the website concerned. Fines can be as high as 100,000 Saudi rials (20,000 euros). The ministry retains the right to broaden the scope of these measures.

Strict content filtering policy

A strict filtering policy is applied to any content deemed by the authorities to be pornographic, or “morally reprehensible”. Websites that discuss religious or human rights issues or the opposition viewpoints are also blocked.

Prohibited websites now include the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and the sites gulfissues.net, saudiinstitute.org and saudiaffairs.net. Other sites have been blocked in response the Arab uprisings. In addition, there is increased surveillance of online forums and social networking sites, especially those that are participative.

The CITC announced in June last year that it had cut off access to the Viber messaging service, a free voice-over-Internet application, because it had failed to meet “the regulatory requirements and laws in Saudi Arabia”.

The authorities decided to target YouTube last December after the success of the campaign to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia and of the video No Woman, No Drive” a parody of the Bob Marley song “No Woman, No Cry” by the Saudi comedian Hisham Fageeh.

Last month, the NGO Arab Network for Human Rights Information, reported the closure of dozens of sites that were “opposed to the values of the Saudi government” and that 41 others had been shut down on the grounds that they had not complied with legislation requiring them to be registered.

Cyber dissidents jailed

Bloggers who dare to tackle sensitive subjects are liable to retaliation by the censors. Last July a Jeddah criminal court sentenced the cyber-activist Raef Badawi to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. The founder of Saudi Liberals, a website for political and social debate that has been censored since its creation in 2008, Badawi has been held in Jeddah’s Briman prison since his arrest on 17 June 2012.

He was accused of creating and moderating a website that insulted religion and religious officials, including the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and violated the Sharia’s basic rules. Judge Faris Al-Harbi added three months to his sentence for “parental disobedience.”

Tariq al-Mubarak, a blogger and columnist who writes for the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, was arrested on 27 October last year after he wrote opinion pieces for the newspaper on subjects regarded as controversial in Saudi Arabia. In one of his stories published in its print edition on 6 October and headlined “It’s Time to Change Women’s Place in the Arab World”, he criticized the ban on women drivers. In another column published on 26 October and entitled “When the mafia threatens…”, he deplored the reign of terror in Arab societies that prevented people from fully enjoying fundamental freedoms. He was released after spending eight days in detention.

In late October, human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair — Raef Badawi’s counsel – was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for signing a petition in 2011 that criticized the heavy sentences imposed on 16 Saudi reformists.

This entry was posted in Enemies of the Internet and tagged Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), Internet Services Unit (ISU), Raef Badawi, Tariq al-Mubarak, The Saudi Arabian National Center for Science & Technology (SANCST), Waleed Abu Al-Khair on 11 March 2014 by moyenorient3.

Find this story at 11 March 2014

CIA Aided Program to Spy on U.S. Cellphones

WASHINGTON—The Central Intelligence Agency played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of U.S. cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.

The CIA and the U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the U.S. through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said.

Today, the Justice Department program, whose existence wasreported by The Wall Street Journal last year, is used to hunt criminal suspects. The same technology is used to track terror suspects and intelligence targets overseas, the people said.

The program operates specially equipped planes that fly from five U.S. cities, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population. Planes are equipped with devices—some past versions were dubbed “dirtboxes” by law-enforcement officials—that trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.
The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.

Some law-enforcement officials are concerned the aerial surveillance of cellphone signals inappropriately mixes traditional police work with the tactics and technology of overseas spy work that is constrained by fewer rules. Civil-liberties groups say the technique amounts to a digital dragnet of innocent Americans’ phones.

….

The cooperation between technical experts at the CIA and the Marshals Service, which law-enforcement officials have described as a “marriage,” represents one way criminal investigators are increasingly relying on U.S. intelligence agencies for operational support and technical assistance in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Many Justice Department officials view the joint effort with the CIA as having made valuable contributions to both domestic and overseas operations.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment on whether the CIA or any other agency uses the devices. Some technologies developed by the agency “have been lawfully and responsibly shared with other U.S. government agencies,” the spokesman said. “How those agencies use that technology is determined by the legal authorities that govern the operations of those individual organizations—not CIA.” He also said the relationship between the Marshals Service and CIA tech experts couldn’t be characterized as a marriage.

A Justice Department spokesman said Marshals Service techniques are “carried out consistent with federal law, and are subject to court approval.” The agency doesn’t conduct “domestic surveillance, intelligence gathering, or any type of bulk data collection,” the spokesman said, adding that it doesn’t gather any intelligence on behalf of U.S. spy agencies.

By DEVLIN BARRETT
Updated March 10, 2015 7:39 p.m. ET

Find this story at 10 March 2015
Copyright wsj.com

CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

CIA Director John Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber-espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

Several officials said Brennan’s team has even considered creating a new cyber-directorate — a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches, which have been pillars of the CIA’s organizational structure for decades.

U.S. officials emphasized that the plans would not involve new legal authorities and that Brennan may stop short of creating a new directorate. But the suggestion underscores the scope of his ambitions, as well as their potential to raise privacy concerns or lead to turf skirmishes with the National Security Agency, the dominant player in electronic espionage.

“Brennan is trying to update the agency to make sure it is prepared to tackle the challenges in front of it,” said a U.S. official familiar with the reorganization plan. “I just don’t think you can separate the digital world people operate in from the human intelligence” mission that is the CIA’s traditional domain.

Like others, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal decision-making.

The expanded emphasis on cyber is part of a broader restructuring envisioned by Brennan that is expected to break down long-standing boundaries between the CIA’s operations and analysis directorates, creating hybrid “centers” that combine those and other disciplines.

Brennan is expected to begin implementing aspects of his plan this month, officials said. He recently met with senior members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to outline the proposed changes.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment, saying that “final decisions have not yet been made with respect to agency reorganization efforts.” In a notice to the CIA workforce last year, Brennan said that he had become “increasingly convinced that the time has come to take a fresh look at how we are organized.”

The changes are designed to replicate the model of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, which has surged in size and influence since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The restructuring could lead to new reporting lines for thousands of CIA employees, as long-standing units such the Latin America and Near East divisions give way to new centers that combine analysis, collection and covert operations.

The National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Intelligence — the formal names for the operations and analysis branches — would continue to exist, but would focus more on developing talent and resources that could be distributed to the new centers.

“It would be a huge deal,” said Michael Allen, a former White House and congressional aide who wrote a 2013 book about intelligence reform. Unlike at the FBI and other security agencies, Allen said, “there hasn’t been wholesale structural reform in the CIA post-9/11.”

Former officials who are familiar with the plan said it has caused generational friction within the CIA’s ranks, with longtime officers resisting changes that younger employees are more eager to embrace.

The head of the clandestine service recently resigned, in part over objections to the scope of Brennan’s plan, officials said. Brennan quickly replaced him with a longtime officer who had led an internal review panel that broadly endorsed the director’s reform agenda.

Although limited compared with the larger NSA, the CIA has substantial cyber capabilities. Its Information Operations Center, which handles assignments such as extracting information from stolen laptops and planting surveillance devices, is now second only to the Counterterrorism Center in size, former officials said.

The CIA also oversees the Open Source Center, an intelligence unit created in 2005 to scour publicly available data, including Twitter feeds, Facebook postings and Web forums where al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups post material.

Brennan hopes to make the use of such capabilities more pervasive, U.S. officials said, ensuring that expertise and tools that now reside in the Information Operations Center are distributed across the agency.

The move comes at a time when the CIA has struggled to gain traction against adversaries — including the Islamic State and the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group — that recruit and communicate extensively online but operate in combat zones that CIA officers are generally not able to enter.

But officials said digital changes have transformed even the most conventional cloak-and-dagger scenarios. Secrets that were once obtained by recruiting a source or meeting in a safe house increasingly reside in clouds of digital transmissions that surround espionage targets.

To recruit a Russian spy, “you may need to manipulate someone’s e-mail, read someone’s e-mail and track the whereabouts of the FSB,” a former official said, referring to the Russian security service. “Cyber is now part of every mission. It’s not a specialized, boutique thing.”

Beyond elevating the role of the Information Operations Center, U.S. officials said, Brennan is seeking to ensure that the agency is not lagging in other areas, such as counterintelligence work and the CIA’s internal e-mail system.

Brennan provided only broad outlines of his plan in recent congressional meetings, which excluded all but the four highest-ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence panels. A senior U.S. intelligence official said some senior NSA executives remain in the dark on Brennan’s cyber ambitions.

In recent years, the CIA has collaborated extensively with the NSA on a range of covert programs, including its drone campaign against al-Qaeda. Documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that e-mails and cellphone signals intercepted by the NSA were used to confirm the identities of targets in strikes.

But the CIA also has fought budget and bureaucratic battles to maintain its standalone capability, prompting some to view the latest push as an attempt to capi­tal­ize on Washington’s growing alarm over cyberthreats — and the corresponding shifts in federal budgets.

Former CIA officials said that the agency is mainly concerned about having direct control over the cyber components of its operations and that Brennan’s plans would not encroach on the global surveillance programs run by the NSA. Nor would they interfere with the work of a new agency the Obama administration is creating to fuse intelligence on cyberattacks.

Brennan’s push to expand the CIA’s cyber capabilities is “entirely appropriate, even overdue,” said Stephen Slick, a former CIA official who directs the Intelligence Studies Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Advances in digital technology are having a revolutionary impact on the intelligence business, and it’s important for CIA to adapt its collection and covert action missions to account for the new opportunities and dangers.”

Ellen Nakashima and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

By Greg Miller February 23

Find this story at 23 February 2015

Copyright washingtonpost.com

GCHQ captured emails of journalists from top international media

• Snowden files reveal emails of BBC, NY Times and more
• Agency includes investigative journalists on ‘threat’ list
• Editors call on Cameron to act against snooping on media
GCHQ

GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.

The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

The communications, which were sometimes simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists but also included correspondence between reporters and editors discussing stories, were retained by GCHQ and were available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet. There is nothing to indicate whether or not the journalists were intentionally targeted.

The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process.

New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed “investigative journalists” as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers.

Senior editors and lawyers in the UK have called for the urgent introduction of a freedom of expression law amid growing concern over safeguards proposed by ministers to meet concerns over the police use of surveillance powers linked to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).

More than 100 editors, including those from all the national newspapers, have signed a letter, coordinated by the Society of Editors and Press Gazette, to the UK prime minister, David Cameron, protesting at snooping on journalists’ communications.

In the wake of terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish grocer in Paris, Cameron has renewed calls for further bulk-surveillance powers, such as those which netted these journalistic communications.

Ripa has been used to access journalists’ communications without a warrrant, with recent cases including police accessing the phone records of Tom Newton-Dunn, the Sun’s political editor, over the Plebgate investigation. The call records of Mail on Sunday reporters involved in the paper’s coverage of Chris Huhne’s speeding row were also accessed in this fashion.

Under Ripa, neither the police nor the security services need to seek the permission of a judge to investigate any UK national’s phone records – instead, they must obtain permission from an appointed staff member from the same organisation, not involved in their investigation.

However, there are some suggestions in the documents that the collection of billing data by GCHQ under Ripa goes wider – and that it may not be confined to specific target individuals.

A top secret document discussing Ripa initially explains the fact that billing records captured under Ripa are available to any government agency is “unclassified” provided that there is “no mention of bulk”.

The GCHQ document goes on to warn that the fact that billing records “kept under Ripa are not limited to warranted targets” must be kept as one of the agency’s most tightly guarded secrets, at a classification known as “Top secret strap 2”.

That is two levels higher than a normal top secret classification – as it refers to “HMG [Her Majesty’s government] relationships with industry that have areas of extreme sensitivity”.

Internal security advice shared among the intelligence agencies was often as preoccupied with the activities of journalists as with more conventional threats such as foreign intelligence, hackers or criminals.

One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.

It continued: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.

“All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”

It goes on to caution “such approaches pose a real threat”, and tells staff they must be “immediately reported” to the chain-of-command.

GCHQ information security assessments, meanwhile, routinely list journalists between “terrorism” and “hackers” as “influencing threat sources”, with one matrix scoring journalists as having a “capability” score of two out of five, and a “priority” of three out of five, scoring an overall “low” information security risk.

Terrorists, listed immediately above investigative journalists on the document, were given a much higher “capability” score of four out of five, but a lower “priority” of two. The matrix concluded terrorists were therefore a “moderate” information security risk.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”

James Ball
Monday 19 January 2015 15.04 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 20 January 2015 00.17 GMT

Find this story at 19 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News

Met de billen bloot op Facebook

Er wordt alom voor gewaarschuwd: je sociale leven kan redelijk eenvoudig in kaart worden gebracht zodra je actief een Facebook-pagina onderhoudt. Buro J&J brengt het resultaat visueel in kaart.

Metadata zijn sporen die je na laat gedurende je communicatie via internet en telefoon. Dit zijn vooral individuele sporen, sporen over jezelf en het directe contact dat je onderhoudt met mensen. Natuurlijk kan naar aanleiding van die sporen een beeld geschetst worden van je sociale leefwereld, maar daarvoor moet je iemands data wel eerst voor langere tijd opslaan.

Individuele data is harde data over waar, hoe laat en met wie je hebt gesproken waarmee je als verdachte, getuige of onbekende kunt worden gelabeld door opsporingsdiensten. Je bent in de buurt geweest, je hebt met iemand gebeld of gewhatsappt, je reageert niet op een sms-bombardement, alles in het kader van de opsporing.

Metadataverzameling

Voor directe vervolging zijn die data van belang, voor inlichtingendiensten minder. Zij zullen ongetwijfeld veel data verzamelen (‘At a meeting with his British counterparts in 2008, Keith Alexander, then head of the National Security Agency, reportedly asked, “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time?”’, the Washington Post 13 mei 2014), maar dat ligt in de aard van inlichtingendiensten. Die data heeft ook pas inlichtingenwaarde op het moment dat je iemands digitale stappen langer volgt. Voor het voorkomen van aanslagen zijn die data meestal zinloos. Zij geven misschien wel patronen aan, maar hebben geen voorspellende waarde voor mogelijke acties.

Op 20 december 2013 opent NBC news met: ‘NSA program stopped no terror attacks, says White House panel member’ The Guardian (14-01-14) onderstreept deze claim met de stelling dat volgens de Senate judiciary committee het verzamelen van bulk telefoondata een beperkte rol heeft gespeeld in het voorkomen van terrorisme.

The Guardian baseert haar stelling op een onderzoek door de New America Foundation die tot de conclusie kwam dat de NSA geen enkele aanslag heeft weten te voorkomen. De aanslag op de marathon van Boston van 15 april 2013 onderschrijven die conclusie. Meerdere diensten (FBI, CIA en NSA) hielden de verdachten in de gaten, maar zij konden hun aanslagen toch uitvoeren.

Nederland laat hetzelfde beeld zien. De inlichtingendiensten hebben de moord op Fortuyn en Van Gogh niet weten te voorkomen. Van de Hofstadgroep, waar Mohammed Bouyeri toe behoorde, was reeds bekend dat de meeste leden benaderd waren door de AIVD. Tevens was bekend dat zij bijeen kwamen in het huis van Bouyeri en dat het adresboek van hem door de Amsterdamse politie was gekopieerd voor de inlichtingendienst. De dienst heeft aangegeven dat zij webfora kunnen hacken, daarnaast heeft de dienst naar alle waarschijnlijkheid telefoontaps en internettaps op de Hofstadgroep leden geplaatst. Theo van Gogh is ondanks die dataverzameling vermoord (zie Onder Druk, Buro Jansen & Janssen).

Open boek

Voor inlichtingendiensten is het voorkomen van aanslag echter niet het belangrijkste. Zij willen de ‘subversieven’, de ‘tegencultuur’ in kaart brengen. Specifieke informatie kan dan belangrijk zijn om op een groep in te kunnen zoomen, maar die data (metadata) is slechts deels interessant.

Je kunt bijvoorbeeld vastleggen dat Margriet en Barbara (de twee vrouwen in dit verhaal) veel met elkaar communiceren, bijvoorbeeld elke dag om 16.00 uur gedurende twee minuten. Margriet bevindt zich ten oosten van het centrum van Amsterdam, Barbara ten westen. Een locatie is er ook voor beide vrouwen. Laurence (de man in dit verhaal) communiceert slechts zelden met beide vrouwen, met Barbara op bepaalde momenten. Groepsgesprekken hebben de drie nooit.

Eigenlijk ben je nu al het zicht op de ‘bigger picture’ kwijt, omdat je direct inzoomt op het individu. Je verliest zo het helikopterperspectief, je staat niet meer boven de persoon, maar eigenlijk direct naast hem. Voor opsporingsdiensten is dit van belang voor het traceren van verdachten van misdrijven, je legt iemands leven in retrospectief vast. Voor inlichtingendiensten is deze data eigenlijk zinloos, je bent altijd te laat, zoals de moord op Van Gogh laat zien.

Dat tegenwoordig iedereen een spoor van data trekt, is sinds de onthullingen van Edward Snowden op de achtergrond geraakt. De overheid heeft een grote verzamelwoede en dat is de ‘schuldige’ in de discussie. Dit is al vele jaren bekend, maar veel mensen leken en lijken zich daar niets van aan te trekken. De discussie over de massa aan data die mensen zelf op het internet storten door eigen communicatie, is op de achtergrond geraakt.

Communicatie over mijn aanwezigheid in de Albert Heijn gebeurt zowel verhuld (metadata) als open (twitter, instagram). Het lijkt erbij te horen dat bij een actie, bijvoorbeeld het omtrekken van stellingkasten in de AH tegen de macht van de supermarkten, je niet alleen je metadata meesleept (zonder bellen al je locatie prijsgeven), maar ook nog eens met diezelfde telefoon twittert (hashtag #valAHaan) en fotografeert.

Dat de overheid die data verzamelt is dan eigenlijk bijzaak geworden. Veel mensen delen hun gehele leven elke seconde van de dag, niet alleen via metadata ook door ‘echte’ data. Het op straat gooien van persoonlijke data is ook zichtbaar bij Facebook. Wij hebben drie mensen (Margriet, Barbara en Laurence) die buitenparlementair politiek actief zijn, gevraagd of wij hun Facebook-data mochten analyseren. Die analyse hebben we vervolgens in een grafisch beeld omgezet.

Wie is wie

Stel, je bent vagelijk bevriend met Margriet. Je hebt nooit haar vrienden ontmoet en wordt uitgenodigd voor haar dertigste verjaardag. Margriet geeft een knalfuif en al haar familie, vrienden en bekenden komen langs. Zelfs incidentele vrienden van uitgaansgelegenheden zijn van de partij.

Zodra je van de grote zaal waar de party plaatsvindt een foto zou maken, krijg je grofweg een schets van de Facebook-pagina van Margriet. Haar familie zoekt elkaar op, mensen van de ngo waar zij actief voor is doen hetzelfde, krakers delen de laatste nieuwtjes uit, de deelnemers aan haar dansgroepen begroeten elkaar, en anderen hokken in groepjes. Door de gehele ruimte zwerven enkele eenlingen die niet echt mensen kennen.

In de loop van de avond vormt de dansvloer het middelpunt van het feest, ook daar is sprake van groepsvorming. Het eerste moment van de avond, dat bekenden elkaar opzoeken, zie je terug in de afbeelding op de Facebook-pagina van Margriet. Nu niet alleen op haar dertigste verjaardagsdag, maar dagelijks.

In het algemeen valt op dat de meeste mensen met hun volledige naam (voor- en achternaam) zich op Facebook presenteren. Ook ngo´s, actiegroepen, bands, kraakpanden en alternatieve uitgaansgelegenheden vermelden een volledig profiel op sociale media. Daardoor wordt vrij snel duidelijk waar iemand sympathie voor heeft, waar hij of zij uitgaat, welke kraakpanden de persoon kent en welke acties door iemand worden ondersteund.

Opvallend is dat al die acties en ngo’s ook bij elkaar horen. Er zitten geen vreemde zaken bij, zoals bijvoorbeeld bedrijven als Coca Cola, Monsanto of Shell. De drie activisten tonen hun politieke opvatting door middel van hun Facebook-pagina duidelijk. Natuurlijk zijn Margriet, Barbara en Laurence bekenden van Jansen & Janssen, maar zelfs bij onbekende activisten zal het eenvoudig zijn om de politieke kleur, vrienden, familie, werk en je sociale netwerk op te tekenen.

Een kraaksymbool op Facebook bijvoorbeeld is iets totaal anders dan een kraaksymbool op een T-shirt dat je vandaag draagt. Dat T-shirt draag je waarschijnlijk anoniem, zonder naambordje of rug-burgerservicenummer. Via je Facebook-pagina is dat T-shirt gekoppeld aan je naam, je sociale netwerk, je leefwereld. Dat is niet anoniem, het gaat zelfs verder dan je persoonlijke identificatie.

Niet perfect

Natuurlijk is het beeld niet perfect en moet er rekening worden gehouden met allerlei ongerijmdheden, maar de grafische representatie van de drie mensen schept een beeld van hun leven. Bij het zien van het beeld viel het Margriet op dat haar “sociale netwerk heel goed zichtbaar is”. Dat het beeld niet perfect is viel haar ook op: “Grappig dat er ook een muziekband en een persoon tussen zitten die inmiddels amper nog actief zijn.” Het beeld is niet perfect en daarom worden hier enkele kanttekeningen bij de interpretaties geplaatst.

Veel communiceren, veel ‘liken’ of veel ‘likes’ krijgen op Facebook betekent niet alles. In de beelden hebben de verschillende personen en groepen een andere kleuren. Donker rood is een teken van grote activiteit, maar in deze analyse wordt daar niet dieper op ingegaan. Veel activiteit valt bij een oppervlakkige analyse niet goed te definiëren. Wel maakt het beeld duidelijk dat met verfijnde oplossingen de mate van activiteit en welke activiteit nader kan worden ingekleurd. Automatisch moet bij de analyse van de beelden voorzichtig worden omgesprongen met conclusies over leiderschap en hiërarchie.

Ook zegt de communicatie op Facebook niet alles. Mensen die op internet zeer actief zijn, zijn misschien in werkelijkheid erg verlegen. Mensen met een grote mond en die stoer doen op internet, vervullen niet per se een belangrijke rol binnen een groep en/of sociaal netwerk. Tevens is niet iedereen aanwezig op Facebook. Er zijn nog steeds mensen die geen Facebook-pagina hebben, die zijn dus niet zichtbaar in het netwerk. Zelfs met deze kanttekeningen moet Laurence ook toegeven dat zijn leven redelijk goed in beeld wordt gebracht.

Facebook-beeld van Barbara
Pijl 1 oude vriendengroep en contacten via derden, geen sterke banden
Pijl 2 collega’s en ngo’s gerelateerd aan het werk van Barbara
Pijl 3 sterke relatie met Barbara, springt eruit in het netwerk, is haar vriend Evert
Pijl 4 collega’s en uitgaansgelegenheden gerelateerd aan Evert vriend van Barbara
Pijl 5 oude vriendengroep en contacten via familie zwerm, geen sterke banden
Tussen pijl 1 en 5 Familie zwerm
Tussen pijl 2 en 4 individuen, kraakpanden en alternatieve uitgaansgelegenheden.

Familie zwerm

Het Facebook beeld van Margriet bestaat uit een grote zwerm (pijl 1 van haar beeld), een klein wolkje onder (pijl 3), twee wolken bij elkaar (pijl 4) en enkele losse individuen bovenaan. Het beeld van Barbara laat links een kleine wolk zien met een plukje daaronder (pijl 1 en 5) en rechts een grote zwerm in een boog van boven naar beneden (pijl 2, 3 en 4). Laurence laat een grote wolk in het midden zien (pijl 2 en 4) en twee plukjes boven (pijl 1) en beneden (pijl 3).

Bij alle drie de beelden springen de plukjes familie er uit. Margriet heeft een klein wolkje familie (pijl 3) die ver onder haar ‘eigen’ wolk hangt. Barbara heeft een grote wolk links van de centrale zwerm. Dat is haar familie en waarschijnlijk oude vrienden in het land waar zij vandaan komt. Laurence heeft een klein wolkje onder de hoofdwolk, waar zijn familie en enkele oude vrienden zich hebben verenigd.

Alle drie de activisten hebben ‘afstand’ tot hun familie. Bij Barbara heeft het met fysieke afstand te maken, bij Laurence en Margriet kan het iets zeggen over de mate van gehechtheid. Bij Barbara is nog opvallen dat naast de ‘familie’ zwerm (tussen pijl 1 en pijl 5) er nog twee kleine wolkjes (pijl 1 en 5) verder van de centrale wolk afstaat. De verklaring van deze wolk: een groep vrienden of bekenden in het land waar Barbara vandaan komt. Pijl 1 laat een klein netwerk zien dat verbonden is met enkele wolken bij de centrale zwerm. Het is niet direct verbonden met de centrale persoon (pijl 3) in de grote wolk. Waarschijnlijk is dit een groep uit het verleden waar om verschillende redenen minder relaties mee onderhouden zijn.

Hoe zijn die specifieke familie-zwermen te onderscheiden van elkaar? Eigenlijk vrij simpel. De activisten staan op Facebook met hun achternaam. In de ‘familie’ wolken komt die naam veel voor. Natuurlijk is het een aanname, maar bij navraag blijkt Margriet aan te geven dat “rechtsonder de familie zit”. Ook Laurence zegt dat pijl 3 een “opvallend los netwerkje is. Dit is een netwerk van oude vrienden en familie. Ik heb daar weinig contact mee en dat lijkt zelfs uit het Facebook-beeld te halen”, geeft Laurence aan. In ieder geval is de familie zwerm niet opgenomen in de centrale wolk van alle drie de activisten.

Facebook-beeld van Laurence
Pijl 1: wolkje vrienden of collega’s die betrokken zijn bij een ngo’s
Pijl 2: activisten zwerm rond kraakpand in Amsterdam (groepen, individuen, kraakpanden etc.)
Pijl 3: Familie zwerm en wat oude vrienden
Pijl 4: activisten zwerm rond groep in Den Haag (groepen, individuen, kraakpanden etc.)

Activisten zwerm

De activisten zwerm bestaat bij alle drie uit een verzameling groepen, kraakpanden, alternatieve uitgaansgelegenheden en personen. Bij Margriet bestaat die wolk (pijl 1) uit verschillende delen. Links boven bevindt zich een groep mensen, muziekbands en groepen rond enkele uitgaansgelegenheden en kraakpanden zoals de OCCii aan de Amstelveenseweg in Amsterdam West en het kraakpand de Valreep in Amsterdam Oost.

Links onder in de centrale wolk komt het woord anarchisme regelmatig terug, zoals Anarchistische Groep Friesland en Anarchistisch Kollektief Utrecht. Deze groepen en mensen ‘hangen’ rond bij Doorbraak, een linkse basisorganisatie. Rechts onder bevinden zich individuen in de zwerm die actief zijn voor verschillende ngo’s. Gezien het werk van Margriet is het logisch dat zij verbinding met deze groep mensen heeft. Slechts enkele groepen komen er in voor, het zijn vooral personen.

Tot slot rechtsboven is een groep mensen en enkele bands gegroepeerd die tussen de alternatieve uitgaansgelegenheden en kraakpand (links boven) en de twee wolken rechts van de activisten zwerm staan. Rechtsboven vormt een soort brug naar twee dansgroepen die rechts van de centrale wolk staan.

De activistenzwerm van Laurence (pijl 2 en 4) is even scherp in te delen in aparte delen. Rechtsonder een specifiek groepje krakers/activisten die dezelfde hobby’s erop nahouden. Rechtsboven een groep mensen en organisaties georganiseerd rond het Autonoom Centrum Den Haag (pijl 4). Linksonder is weer het kraakpand de Valreep in Amsterdam Oost present, net als bij Margriet. Het is opvallend hoe de Valreep (pijl 2) bij Laurence als een soort spin vele connecties maakt met mensen en groepen.

Hier omheen hangen wat activisten en krakers uit Amsterdam. De centrale as in de activistische zwerm van Laurence wordt gevormd tussen de Valreep in Amsterdam en het Autonoom Centrum in Den Haag. Linksboven zijn een paar personen aanwezig die de link vormen tussen de Amsterdamse kraakscene en het wolkje dat links boven de activistenzwerm van Laurence zweeft. Dit kleine wolkje dat los is geweekt van de centrale wolk zijn mensen die betrokken zijn bij een ngo.

De as ‘de Valreep – Autonoom Centrum’ in de activistenzwerm van Laurence is niet direct zichtbaar bij Margriet. Daar spelen eerder enkele individuen een centrale rol in de ‘grote wolk’. Margriet: “in de grote wolk (pijl 1) springen er een aantal erg uit die blijkbaar zeer actief zijn op Facebook zoals Albert en Astrid.” Deze twee mensen waren vroeger actief (jaren ’90 en begin ‘0), maar spelen nu geen belangrijke rol meer binnen de activisten scene. Niet alleen groepen kunnen dus een verbindende factor spelen, maar ook individuen zoals de zwermen rond Albert en Astrid laten zien. Zij houden de wolk van Margriet bij elkaar.

Bij Barbara is iets vergelijkbaars aan de hand. De onderkant van de grote wolk (pijl 2, 3 en 4) wordt bij elkaar gehouden door één persoon (pijl 3). Dat is iemand waarmee Barbara veel connecties heeft, haar vriend Evert. Zelfs zonder kennis over de relatie tussen Barbara en Evert valt in ieder geval zijn zeer actieve positie binnen haar netwerk op. Het is duidelijk dat Evert heel dicht bij Barbara staat. Dit kan ook worden geconcludeerd uit het feit dat Evert veel contacten heeft met de familie zwerm (tussen pijl 1 en 5).

Rechts van Evert wordt het laagste deel van de wolk (pijl 4) ingenomen door collega´s en groepen rond de uitgaansgelegenheid waar hij werkt. In het midden zijn vooral de alternatieve uitgaansgelegenheden en kraakpanden vertegenwoordigd (rond pijl 3). Halverwege de top is er een lichte breuk zichtbaar in de wolk. De top lijkt daardoor een beetje los te staan van het deel er onder (pijl 2).

Die top wordt ingenomen door collega´s van de werkplek van Barbara, een ngo die enkele contacten onderhoudt met de activistische scene. Vanuit die top zijn er enkele individuen die tegen de grote wolk aanhangen in twee kleine plukken verdeeld en die ook contact onderhouden met de ‘overkant’, de familie en oude vrienden zwerm. Dat zijn mensen die connecties hebben met het land waar Barbara vandaan komt, iets dat is op te maken uit de namen van de verschillende mensen.

Facebook-beeld van Margriet
Pijl 1: activisten zwerm met groepen, individuen, kraakpanden en alternatieve uitgaansgelegenheden.
Pijl 2: Losse individuen, merendeel oud klasgenoten van de middelbare school
Pijl 3: Familie zwerm
Pijl 4: Vertier wolk: een grote (waar de pijl naar wijst) en kleine dansgroep (links van de grote wolk)

Vertier wolk

Bij Margriet is het opvallend dat zij twee aparte wolken ter rechterzijde van de activisten zwerm heeft (pijl 4 en iets naast pijl 4). Centraal in die twee wolken staan de namen van een dansgroep. De individuen daaromheen zullen naar alle waarschijnlijkheid leden zijn of sympathisanten, zoals bij de activisten zwerm. Barbara en Laurence geven niet zo heel duidelijk hun hobby’s prijs, maar het kan ook betekenen dat zij activiteiten doen met mensen die geen gebruik maken van Facebook of niet zichtbaar zijn in een duidelijk clubverband.

In principe is er natuurlijk sprake van diverse opties ten aanzien van het wel of niet zichtbaar zijn van groepen. Toch is dat niet helemaal waar, want de clusters rond werk, connecties rond een ngo, rond een kraakpand of een uitgaansgelegenheid, zijn wél heel duidelijk. Een logischer verklaring is dat de activiteit meer is ingebed in de bestaande structuur, waardoor er geen losse groep is. Dit is zo als een activiteit niet in een officieel club- of groepsverband, zoals de twee dansgroepen van Barbara, plaatsvindt. Bij Margriet lijkt dit te kloppen, ook ten aanzien van haar oude klasgenoten uit het verleden. “Het groepje helemaal bovenin zijn oud-klasgenoten van mijn middelbare school met enkele geïsoleerde contacten”, analyseert Margriet haar eigen Facebook-beeld.

Barbara laat eigenlijk twee wolken zien. Een familie- en vriendenzwerm met daarnaast twee aparte wolken oud-vrienden of bekenden waar nu minder contact mee wordt onderhouden. Deze wolk staat los van haar leven in Nederland, maar is vergelijkbaar met de danswolken van Margriet, gescheiden werelden met enkele connecties. Bij de wolk met het werk van Barbara boven en het werk van Evert beneden wordt het centrum ingenomen door uitgaan, persoonlijke contacten en wat activisme en kraakpanden. Een duidelijke aparte groep sport, cultuur of natuur heeft Barbara niet binnen haar netwerk. Barbara en Margriet zijn wel weer in dat centrum aan elkaar gekoppeld. Margriet en Barbara komen terug in het netwerk van Laurence.

Sociaal netwerk vastleggen

Na het zien van zijn Facebook-beeld vraagt Laurence zich af hoeveel hij gaat veranderen aan zijn gedrag op Facebook. “Het geeft een duidelijk inzicht in mijn sociale leven”, constateert hij. Hij merkt daarbij op dat een analyse van de gegevens van Facebook duidelijk maakt waar de zwakke schakels in zijn leven zich bevinden. “Dat is best scarry, vreemd om dat op deze manier te ontdekken”, voegt hij eraan toe.

Ook Margriet is verbaasd over hoe scherp haar sociale leven door Facebook in kaart wordt gebracht. “Als je weet in welke thema´s die zwermen of wolken geïnteresseerd zijn, heb je een schat aan informatie. Door een combinatie te maken van individuen en groepen wordt dat snel duidelijk. Je weet echter niet alleen welke thema’s centraal staan, ook is zichtbaar hoe bepaalde informatie kan worden verspreid binnen die specifieke netwerken. Je weet namelijk wie actief is, een centrale rol speelt, veel connecties heeft, ga zo maar door. En dan hoeft het niet alleen om commerciële boodschappen te gaan”, laat zij weten.

Facebook legt iemands sociale leven vast, maar doet dat echter niet alleen. Mensen leveren het internetbedrijf hun persoonlijke data. Die informatie is misschien onschuldig als je naar de elementen kijkt, maar wie de data in context plaatst kan een foto maken van de bezoekers van de dertigste verjaardag van Margriet. Die foto weerspiegelt haar sociale leven, niet alleen op die dag. Het plaatst mensen in groepen, kleurt politieke ideeën in en geeft inzicht in verhoudingen.

Wie van alle groepen en personen van de Facebook-pagina van Margriet (hetzelfde geldt voor Barbara en Laurence) een grafisch beeld maakt, kan een nog specifiekere sociale geschiedenis van haar optekenen. Jeugd, school, universiteit, arbeidsverleden, vrije tijd, activisme en politieke voorkeuren kunnen deels worden ingevuld. Misschien niet perfect, maar Facebook bezit zoveel data dat die perfectie in de loop der jaren naar alle waarschijnlijkheid zal toenemen.

Vraag is natuurlijk of je je hele sociale leven op straat wilt leggen, of dat je daar zelf controle over wilt hebben en/of houden. Dat is een persoonlijke keuze die niets met privacydiscussies te maken heeft. ‘Wat deel je met een bedrijf en daarbij indirect met de wereld?’, is de primaire vraag die je jezelf moet stellen.

Maikel van Leeuwen

Facebook beelden, beelden van je Facebook pagina of een social graph

De bijgevoegde beelden zijn een visualisatie van de Facebook-pagina’s van Margriet, Barbara en Laurence. De verbindingen in het netwerk, de lijnen tussen de rondjes worden ook wel ‘edges’ genoemd. In het Nederlands vertaald zou dit randen of richels betekenen. Eigenlijk zegt dit al iets over de voorzichtigheid die in acht genomen moet worden bij interpretaties. Randen en richels zijn geen diepe verbindingen. Een verbinding kan een ‘like’ zijn of een opmerking.

Een node, een rondje in de beelden, is een persoon en/of organisatie binnen het netwerk. Nodes en edges vormen tezamen een social graph, een Facebook beeld. De grote van een node bepaald de ‘populariteit’ in het netwerk. Met allerlei berekeningen kan bepaald worden hoe populair een node is. De populariteit wordt bepaald door het aantal likes, maar ook door de mate van activiteit door het versturen van berichten of het krijgen van berichten.

Find this story at 30 June 2014

Facebook, het ultieme inlichtingenbedrijf

Je kan Facebook vergelijken met de people’s secret service. Want hoe je het wendt of keert, uiteindelijk zijn het de internetgebruikers die vrijwillig hun persoonlijke leven prijsgeven aan het commerciële bedrijfsleven en de overheid.

In het voorafgaande artikel ‘Met de billen bloot op Facebook’, over Facebook profiling, gaat het vooral over netwerken waarin mensen zich bevinden. Profiling bestaat echter niet alleen uit netwerkanalyse, maar ook uit identificatie-analyse. Wie de profielen van Margriet, Barbara en Laurens bekijkt, krijgt niet alleen de beschikking over veel informatie met betrekking tot familie, vrienden, kennissen, heden en verleden, maar ook voorkeuren.

Facebook fungeert als een soort inlichtingendienst. Het verzamelt informatie die mensen zelf aanleveren. Het lijkt anders dan het persoonsdossier van de inlichtingendienst die bestaat uit krantenartikelen, mediaoptredens, twitterberichten, Facebook postings, vergadernotulen, observatieverslagen en telefoon-/internettaps.

Verzamelwoede

Wie echter inzoomt op de Facebook-data constateert dat het commerciële internetbedrijf dezelfde data beheert die inlichtingendiensten proberen te verzamelen. Informatie die betrekking heeft op persoonlijke voorkeuren, relaties, contacten en netwerken. Het verschil met inlichtingendiensten is dat Facebook niets hoeft te doen voor die dataverzameling. Zij stelt een gratis dienst ter beschikking. Gratis betekent in dit geval natuurlijk niet voor niets. Daarbij gaat het bij Facebook allang niet meer om de advertenties die je moet tolereren.

Het Facebook-beeld van de drie aan ons visualisatie-/analyseproject deelnemende activisten geeft een aantal zaken weer, waar inlichtingendiensten ook constant naar op zoeken zijn. Wie zijn je vrienden (op Facebook), bij welke actiegroepen en politieke partijen ben je aangesloten en voor welke demonstraties en acties heb je sympathie. Likes spelen daarbij natuurlijk een rol, maar het gaat ook om de interactie en de berichten die gekoppeld zijn aan die politieke voorkeuren.

Met de subscribe knop kan Facebook waarde koppelen aan verschillende persoonlijke relaties die je hebt. De relaties en voorkeuren leggen je sociale leven bloot. Naar welke muziek luister je graag, welke boeken lees je en hoe (e-book of papier), favoriete tv-series, de sport die je beoefent, de games die je speelt als je je even verveelt.

Dit is geen persoonlijke informatie die Facebook aan mensen ontfutselt. Het is geen inlichtingendienst die je bibliotheekgegevens opvraagt om te weten welk boek je hebt geleend. Mensen leveren Facebook al hun data aan, vrijwillig zonder dwang. Hooguit kun je spreken van groepsdruk, druk van het argument ‘iedereen gebruikt het’.

De kennis van het bedrijf over je sociale leven strekt zich uit van je voornaam, achternaam, geboortedatum en leeftijd tot aan je afkomst, je gezicht (scan), zeg maar je GBA (Gemeentelijke Basis Administratie) gegevens. Maar Facebook beschikt ook over gegevens betreffende je basisschool, middelbare school en hoger onderwijs (DUO Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs gegevens), tot aan je seksuele oriëntatie (GGD gegevens in verband met inentingen en tests op HIV en andere seksueel overdraagbare ziekten), je huidige en voormalig werkgevers (UWV en DWI gegevens), partner en ex-partners (GBA gegevens), creditcard gegevens (banken/ en creditcard bedrijven), fysieke locatie (telefoonmaatschappijen en internetproviders). Gegevens die overheidsdiensten bij allerlei instanties moeten opvragen.

Duistere achterkant

Mensen delen veel en Facebook vraagt ook regelmatig om je profiel volledig in te vullen. Inlichtingendiensten kloppen bij al die instanties aan, of proberen direct en constant toegang tot deze data te verkrijgen. Aan de achterkant weet je eigenlijk niet wat Facebook met die data doet. Advertenties koppelen aan je profiel is de meest opvallende, maar die achterkant blijft duister.

Met de onthullingen van Edward Snowden over datastofzuiger de National Security Agency (NSA), is duidelijk geworden dat multinationals zoals Facebook, maar ook Google, Microsoft en Apple hun achterdeur voor de inlichtingendienst(en) open zetten. Het Amerikaanse blad Mother Jones kopte in december 2013: ‘Where Does Facebook Stop and the NSA Begin?’

Toch is deze weergave niet helemaal correct. Het lijkt eerder op de omgekeerde wereld. ‘Waar stoppen de inlichtingendiensten en gaat het bedrijf Facebook verder?’ Dit zit niet in de interacties tussen je vrienden op Facebook of met groepen; Facebook wil veel meer van je weten en of je nu ingelogd bent of niet, het bedrijf zorgt ervoor dat ze op de hoogte is van wat er in je leven gebeurt.

Eind oktober 2013 vertelde analist Ken Rudin van Facebook dat het bedrijf testen uitvoert om cursorbewegingen van individuele burgers op Facebook vast te leggen en te analyseren. Het gaat hierbij om het vastleggen van bewegingen met de muis naar locaties op het scherm om vervolgens daaruit af te kunnen leiden wat de interesse is van de afzonderlijke gebruikers.

De analist beweerde dat dit van doen heeft met het plaatsen van advertenties, maar uiteindelijk heeft het te maken met het profileren van de gebruikers. Zo kan Facebook namelijk ook zien of de persoon tijdens het gebruik van het sociale medium naar zijn telefoon of computerscherm kijkt, hoe lang, wanneer en wat. Allemaal nog wel gerelateerd aan de website van het bedrijf, maar met aanvullende functies als de sport applicatie pedometer kan Facebook vastleggen hoe lang, waar en wanneer je hebt hardgelopen of gewandeld.

Het duurt niet lang meer voordat het bedrijf je algehele conditie heeft doorgrond als aanvullende applicaties over bloeddruk en hartslag beschikbaar worden gesteld. Zo ontwikkelt Google een slimme contactlens voor diabetes patiënten en investeert zij in bedrijven die zicht bezig houden met diabetes. Allemaal gratis natuurlijk. Of is het niet gratis?

Rijkdom aan informatie

Facebook wil graag toegang tot de microfoon van je computer, headset of telefoon en dringt daarmee door tot in je huiskamer waar je, misschien zonder Facebook, naar muziek luistert die de private inlichtingendienst dan kan horen en toevoegen aan het profiel van jou. Hoe iemand zich voelt komt zo binnen bereik van het bedrijf. Want zelfs als je een andere naam, adres, geboortedatum en andere zaken opgeeft, volgt het bedrijf je. Het legt het apparaat vast waarmee je op Facebook bent ingelogd, met bijbehorend ip-adres, maar ook je locatie, tijdzone, datum en tijdstip.

Ook al vermijdt je te liken, het private bedrijf volgt je stappen langs de ‘events’ en ‘checkins’, de websites die je bezoekt zodra je geobserveerd wordt door Facebook. Zo kan het bedrijf kennis nemen van jouw favoriete café’s, restaurants, gerechten en recepten. Het inlichtingenbedrijf legt vast welke mensen je regelmatig bezoekt, op welke locaties je fotografeert en filmt, met wie je chat en welke groepen je in de gaten houdt.

Foto’s en films die worden toegevoegd aan Facebook bevatten een rijke verzameling aan extra gegevens, zoals met welk apparaat ze zijn gemaakt, sluitertijd en diafragma, locatie, auteur, tijd etc. En van de chats en berichten bewaart Facebook ook de uitgewiste stukken tekst. Je wilt een vriend schrijven dat hij een ‘eikel’ is, maar wist dat vervolgens uit omdat je je vriendschap ermee niet op het spel wilt zetten. Je stuurt deze vriend een berichtje dat je geen tijd hebt dit weekend. Facebook weet zo meer over jouw relatie met die vriend, dan die vriend zelf.

Bij dit alles moet worden aangetekend dat je ingelogd moet zijn op ‘jouw’ Facebook-pagina en dat je bepaalde applicaties hebt geïnstalleerd en aan hebt staan, zoals GPS voor je plaatsbepaling en de pedometer voor je hardloop tracking. Met de gezichtsherkenning kunnen mensen die onzichtbaar willen zijn door Facebook uit de duisternis worden getrokken. Niet door het bedrijf zelf, maar door haar medewerkers, de gebruikers van Facebook. Wie gaat er echter zo bewust mee om? En vooral: wie staat er bij stil dat jouw identiteit altijd gekoppeld is aan die van anderen?

In die zin is Facebook de ultieme inlichtingendienst. Het bedrijf is de people’s secret service, wat zoveel inhoudt dat de individuele gebruikers het werk als medewerkers van de geheime dienst vervullen voor henzelf en voor anderen. De Stasi zou haar vingers erbij aflikken, vandaar dat inlichtingendiensten als de NSA graag toegang hebben tot de achterkant van Facebook, het bedrijf zal de vergaarde informatie ook zonder blikken of blozen vrijgeven.

Steun overheid van belang

Het vrijgeven van vergaarde persoonlijke informatie aan inlichtingendiensten heeft met verschillende aspecten te maken. Ten eerste zijn grote internationaal opererende bedrijven afhankelijker van hun ‘nationale regering’ dan ze zelf zullen toegeven. Zo onderhoudt Shell innige relaties met zowel de Nederlandse als de Britse regering om haar operaties in het buitenland veilig te stellen. Als er ergens iets misgaat wordt zowel het diplomatieke als het militaire apparaat van het ‘thuisland’ gemobiliseerd.

Amerikaanse bedrijven als Facebook en Google zullen dat ook doen. Als Gmail (Google) wordt gehackt zal het bedrijf de Amerikaanse overheid over haar schouder laten meekijken, maar diezelfde overheid zal langs diplomatieke, en zo nodig langs militaire (in dit geval waarschijnlijk cyber-militaire) weg, het bedrijf ondersteunen. Dat is natuurlijk niet vreemd, Google is een groot bedrijf en van belang voor de Amerikaanse economie en hegemonie.

Hetzelfde geldt voor Facebook waarvan diverse accounts begin 2013 werden gehackt. De Amerikaanse overheid zal vaak worden gevraagd om ‘officieel’ te reageren om in veel gevallen de Chinezen terecht te wijzen. Die steun van de Amerikaanse overheid is echter ook niet gratis. Zij zal druk op de bedrijven uitoefenen om de achterdeur voor inlichtingendiensten als de NSA, maar ook de FBI, open te houden. Je kunt bijna spreken van public private partnership waarbij multinationals vaak niet voor de overheidsdiensten hoeven te betalen.

Daarnaast proberen overheden een zo fijnmazig netwerk te creëren van diplomatieke posten en ambassades om hun land in het buitenland te promoten. Die posten hebben ook een andere functie. De onthullingen van Snowden hebben onderstreept dat de Amerikanen en bevriende naties als Canada, Australië, Groot-Brittannië en Nieuw Zeeland die diplomatieke posten gebruiken om in de gehele wereld de mogelijkheid te hebben om af te luisteren.

Werknemers van internationale bedrijven die wereldwijd opereren, zullen regelmatig gevraagd worden bij te dragen aan de inlichtingenoperatie van die overheid. Zij zitten vaak op andere plaatsen dan de diplomaten die vaak onder een vergrootglas in het buitenland opereren. Landen proberen dus hun zicht op het buitenland, de concurrenten en de vijanden zo scherp mogelijk te krijgen. Hoe meer diplomatieke posten en meewerkende bedrijven hoe scherper het beeld. Facebook probeert eigenlijk hetzelfde te doen met de data die zij van haar gebruikers verzamelt en analyseert. Hoe meer data, hoe scherper de analyses en hoe meer zicht op de verbanden en de interacties, hoe helderder het beeld.

In de loop der jaren heeft Facebook het aantal pixels (punten) van de foto van de profielen vergroot. Uiteindelijk werkt zij aan een haarscherp beeld van het profiel van haar gebruikers. Facebook realiseert dit zelf ook. Op 12 november 2013 diende het bedrijf een patent aanvraag in, de ‘178th patent application for a consumer profiling technique the company calls inferring household income for users of a social networking system’ (Facebook Future Plans for Data Collection Beyond All Imagination, 4 december 2013).

Deze aanvraag omschrijft de hoeveelheid en diversiteit van de data. Facebook heeft sinds oktober 2013 1,189,000,000 actieve gebruikers in de gehele wereld. Die data gebruikt het bedrijf nu al voor sociaal wetenschappelijk onderzoek door het Data Science Team van het bedrijf. Dit team doet niet alleen onderzoek naar de data, maar gebruikt de gebruikers ook als onderzoeksmateriaal, zoals het onderzoek van Eytan Bakshy die de toegang tot materiaal van 250 miljoen gebruikers manipuleerde. De gebruikers als proefpersonen in de ideale wereld van Facebook.

Gewoon een bedrijf

Uiteindelijk is Facebook natuurlijk geen gratis dienst. In eerste instantie zal het vooral proberen geld te verdienen door de verkoop van gebruikersprofielen ten bate van gerichte advertenties. De volgende stap heeft het bedrijf al gezet door de voorwaarden die ze stelt voor het aanmaken van een Facebook-pagina. Foto’s en films zijn in principe niet meer je eigendom. Het bedrijf kan die foto’s rechtenvrij gebruiken. Dit geldt natuurlijk ook voor Instagram. Andere bedrijven als Twitter (Twitpic’s) doen hetzelfde.

Wat geldt voor foto’s en films geldt natuurlijk ook voor teksten en andere content die je aan je pagina toevoegt. Voor deze zeer positieve voorwaarden is het bedrijf natuurlijk ook afhankelijk van de Amerikaanse overheid. Mocht wetgeving plotseling veranderen en gebruikers geld van Facebook eisen, zou dat voor het bedrijf een ramp zijn.

Afgaande op de totale omvang van de gebruikers, bijna evenveel als China inwoners heeft, en data die het bedrijf heeft verzameld en beheert, zou je bijna vergeten dat het gewoon een bedrijf is met 6.818 werknemers, een raad van bestuur en aandeelhouders die uiteindelijk graag hun inleg en winst terug willen zien.

De raad van bestuur geeft inzicht op welke plek Facebook in de markt staat. De verschillende leden zijn uit allerlei windstreken gerekruteerd. Natuurlijk Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. en haar dochter Skype, eBay Inc. en andere technologiebedrijven, maar ook entertainment bedrijven als Netflix en Walt Disney Co. Alsmede enkele banken, zoals Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC en Credit Suisse, maar ook The World Bank Group.

Contacten met de politiek zijn ook van belang, dat vindt plaats via oud-leden van de White House Chief of Staff of de US Department of The Treasury. En tot slot natuurlijk de ouderwetse consumentenmarkt zoals General Motors Corp. en Starbucks. Met een klein aantal leden van de raad van bestuur dekt Facebook haar contacten in verleden en heden af. Uiteindelijk is en blijft het gewoon een bedrijf, misschien wel een private inlichtingendienst, maar zonder winst zullen op een gegeven moment de aandeelhouders weglopen en valt het om.

Alternatieven?

Wat er met de vergaarde persoonlijke data gebeurt zodra het bedrijf failliet gaat, is onduidelijk. De overname van Whatsapp door Facebook liet zien dat gebruikers zich plots beducht waren voor hun persoonlijke informatie en op zoek gingen naar ‘alternatieven’.

Aan de bestaande alternatieven kleven eigenlijk dezelfde bezwaren als aan Facebook. Google Hangouts maakt onderdeel uit van een andere multinational, net als Imessenger. Bij Telegram werd geroepen dat het een Russische app is, maar waarom dat slechter is dan een Amerikaanse Whatsapp, los van de technische mankementen, blijft onduidelijk.

Uiteindelijk gaat het niet meer om een discussie over privacy, burgerrechten en/of bigdata. Facebook verzamelt namelijk niet zelf de data, zij verkrijgt het van haar gebruikers/agenten en die staan de persoonsgebonden informatie geheel vrijwillig af. Los van groepsdruk is er geen sprake van drang en dwang.

De Facebook inlichtingendienst stelt indirect solidariteit en de minderheid centraal. Hoe solidair zijn wij met mensen die misschien wel op de foto willen maar niet getagd wllen worden. Die wel iets schrijven maar niet geliked willen worden. Die wel op de foto willen maar zich niet op Facebook geplaatst willen zien. Het debat rond Facebook gaat ook over pluriformiteit versus uniformiteit. Over allemaal hetzelfde, Facebook, of iedereen iets anders.

Facebook registreert in meer of mindere mate het volgende van jou:

Je cursor bewegingen, geo-locatie, meta-data van foto’s en films (type, sluitertijd, geo-locatie indien gps aanstaat, auteur), biometrische gegevens (scan van het gezicht, matched zeer goed), chat gegevens en tekst die je zelfs niet verstuurd hebt, likes, vrienden, politieke kleur, seksuele oriëntatie, school, afkomst, ip-adressen van ingelogd zijn, wanneer je op je scherm van de smart device kijkt, welke smart devices waarmee je op Facebook bent, wanneer je achter de computer zit, hoelang je achter de computer zit, leeftijd, voormalige werkgevers en huidige, partner, familie, vrienden, ex-vriendinnen, muziek, boeken, films, series, games, sport, interacties tussen alle vrienden groepen, welke websites je bezoekt als je ingelogd bent, welke content je bekijkt op Facebook zelf, andere biometrische gegevens (zoals stappen, algehele conditie met sport applicaties).

Find this story at 30 June 2014

Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions Protests over secret study involving 689,000 users in which friends’ postings were moved to influence moods

Poll: Facebook’s secret mood experiment: have you lost trust in the social network?

It already knows whether you are single or dating, the first school you went to and whether you like or loathe Justin Bieber. But now Facebook, the world’s biggest social networking site, is facing a storm of protest after it revealed it had discovered how to make users feel happier or sadder with a few computer key strokes.

It has published details of a vast experiment in which it manipulated information posted on 689,000 users’ home pages and found it could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of “emotional contagion”.

In a study with academics from Cornell and the University of California, Facebook filtered users’ news feeds – the flow of comments, videos, pictures and web links posted by other people in their social network. One test reduced users’ exposure to their friends’ “positive emotional content”, resulting in fewer positive posts of their own. Another test reduced exposure to “negative emotional content” and the opposite happened.

The study concluded: “Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.”

Lawyers, internet activists and politicians said this weekend that the mass experiment in emotional manipulation was “scandalous”, “spooky” and “disturbing”.

On Sunday evening, a senior British MP called for a parliamentary investigation into how Facebook and other social networks manipulated emotional and psychological responses of users by editing information supplied to them.

Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons media select committee, said the experiment was intrusive. “This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people,” he said. “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said the research, published this month in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, was carried out “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”.

She said: “A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow.”

But other commentators voiced fears that the process could be used for political purposes in the runup to elections or to encourage people to stay on the site by feeding them happy thoughts and so boosting advertising revenues.

In a series of Twitter posts, Clay Johnson, the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008, said: “The Facebook ‘transmission of anger’ experiment is terrifying.”

He asked: “Could the CIA incite revolution in Sudan by pressuring Facebook to promote discontent? Should that be legal? Could Mark Zuckerberg swing an election by promoting Upworthy [a website aggregating viral content] posts two weeks beforehand? Should that be legal?”

It was claimed that Facebook may have breached ethical and legal guidelines by not informing its users they were being manipulated in the experiment, which was carried out in 2012.

The study said altering the news feeds was “consistent with Facebook’s data use policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research”.

But Susan Fiske, the Princeton academic who edited the study, said she was concerned. “People are supposed to be told they are going to be participants in research and then agree to it and have the option not to agree to it without penalty.”

James Grimmelmann, professor of law at Maryland University, said Facebook had failed to gain “informed consent” as defined by the US federal policy for the protection of human subjects, which demands explanation of the purposes of the research and the expected duration of the subject’s participation, a description of any reasonably foreseeable risks and a statement that participation is voluntary. “This study is a scandal because it brought Facebook’s troubling practices into a realm – academia – where we still have standards of treating people with dignity and serving the common good,” he said on his blog.

It is not new for internet firms to use algorithms to select content to show to users and Jacob Silverman, author of Terms of Service: Social Media, Surveillance, and the Price of Constant Connection, told Wire magazine on Sunday the internet was already “a vast collection of market research studies; we’re the subjects”.

“What’s disturbing about how Facebook went about this, though, is that they essentially manipulated the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of users without asking permission,” he said. “Facebook cares most about two things: engagement and advertising. If Facebook, say, decides that filtering out negative posts helps keep people happy and clicking, there’s little reason to think that they won’t do just that. As long as the platform remains such an important gatekeeper – and their algorithms utterly opaque – we should be wary about the amount of power and trust we delegate to it.”

Robert Blackie, director of digital at Ogilvy One marketing agency, said the way internet companies filtered information they showed users was fundamental to their business models, which made them reluctant to be open about it.

“To guarantee continued public acceptance they will have to discuss this more openly in the future,” he said. “There will have to be either independent reviewers of what they do or government regulation. If they don’t get the value exchange right then people will be reluctant to use their services, which is potentially a big business problem.”

Robert Booth
The Guardian, Monday 30 June 2014

Find this story at 30 June 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Facebook’s Future Plans for Data Collection Beyond All Imagination

Facebook’s dark plans for the future are given away in its patent applications.

“No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development, entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the fast stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.’”

—Max Weber, 1905

On November 12 Facebook, Inc. filed its 178th patent application for a consumer profiling technique the company calls “inferring household income for users of a social networking system.”

“The amount of information gathered from users,” explain Facebook programmers Justin Voskuhl and Ramesh Vyaghrapuri in their patent application, “is staggering — information describing recent moves to a new city, graduations, births, engagements, marriages, and the like.” Facebook and other so-called tech companies have been warehousing all of this information since their respective inceptions. In Facebook’s case, its data vault includes information posted as early as 2004, when the site first went live. Now in a single month the amount of information forever recorded by Facebook —dinner plans, vacation destinations, emotional states, sexual activity, political views, etc.— far surpasses what was recorded during the company’s first several years of operation. And while no one outside of the company knows for certain, it is believed that Facebook has amassed one of the widest and deepest databases in history. Facebook has over 1,189,000,000 “monthly active users” around the world as of October 2013, providing considerable width of data. And Facebook has stored away trillions and trillions of missives and images, and logged other data about the lives of this billion plus statistical sample of humanity. Adjusting for bogus or duplicate accounts it all adds up to about 1/7th of humanity from which some kind of data has been recorded.

According to Facebook’s programmers like Voskuhl and Vyaghrapuri, of all the clever uses they have already applied this pile of data toward, Facebook has so far “lacked tools to synthesize this information about users for targeting advertisements based on their perceived income.” Now they have such a tool thanks to the retention and analysis of variable the company’s positivist specialists believe are correlated with income levels.

They’ll have many more tools within the next year to run similar predictions. Indeed, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and the hundreds of smaller tech lesser-known tech firms that now control the main portals of social, economic, and political life on the web (which is now to say everywhere as all economic and much social activity is made cyber) are only getting started. The Big Data analytics revolutions has barely begun, and these firms are just beginning to tinker with rational-instrumental methods of predicting and manipulating human behavior.

There are few, if any, government regulations restricting their imaginations at this point. Indeed, the U.S. President himself is a true believer in Big Data; the brain of Obama’s election team was a now famous “cave” filled with young Ivy League men (and a few women) sucking up electioneering information and crunching demographic and consumer data to target individual voters with appeals timed to maximize the probability of a vote for the new Big Blue, not IBM, but the Democratic Party’s candidate of “Hope” and “Change.” The halls of power are enraptured by the potential of rational-instrumental methods paired with unprecedented access to data that describes the social lives of hundreds of millions.

Facebook’s intellectual property portfolio reads like cliff notes summarizing the aspirations of all corporations in capitalist modernity; to optimize efficiency in order to maximize profits and reduce or externalize risk. Unlike most other corporations, and unlike previous phases in the development of rational bureaucracies, Facebook and its tech peers have accumulated never before seen quantities of information about individuals and groups. Recent breakthroughs in networked computing make analysis of these gigantic data sets fast and cheap. Facebook’s patent holdings are just a taste of what’s arriving here and now.

The way you type, the rate, common mistakes, intervals between certain characters, is all unique, like your fingerprint, and there are already cyber robots that can identify you as you peck away at keys. Facebook has even patented methods of individual identification with obviously cybernetic overtones, where the machine becomes an appendage of the person. U.S. Patents 8,306,256, 8,472,662, and 8,503,718, all filed within the last year, allow Facebook’s web robots to identify a user based on the unique pixelation and other characteristics of their smartphone’s camera. Identification of the subject is the first step toward building a useful data set to file among the billion or so other user logs. Then comes analysis, then prediction, then efforts to influence a parting of money.

Many Facebook patents pertain to advertising techniques that are designed and targeted, and continuously redesigned with ever-finer calibrations by robot programs, to be absorbed by the gazes of individuals as they scroll and swipe across their Facebook feeds, or on third party web sites.

Speaking of feeds, U.S. Patent 8,352,859, Facebook’s system for “Dynamically providing a feed of stories about a user of a social networking system” is used by the company to organize the constantly updated posts and activities inputted by a user’s “friends.” Of course embedded in this system are means of inserting advertisements. According to Facebook’s programmers, a user’s feeds are frequently injected with “a depiction of a product, a depiction of a logo, a display of a trademark, an inducement to buy a product, an inducement to buy a service, an inducement to invest, an offer for sale, a product description, trade promotion, a survey, a political message, an opinion, a public service announcement, news, a religious message, educational information, a coupon, entertainment, a file of data, an article, a book, a picture, travel information, and the like.” That’s a long list for sure, but what gets injected is more often than not whatever will boost revenues for Facebook.

The advantage here, according to Facebook, is that “rather than having to initiate calls or emails to learn news of another user, a user of a social networking website may passively receive alerts to new postings by other users.” The web robot knows best. Sit back and relax and let sociality wash over you, passively. This is merely one of Facebook’s many “systems for tailoring connections between various users” so that these connections ripple with ads uncannily resonant with desires and needs revealed in the quietly observed flow of e-mails, texts, images, and clicks captured forever in dark inaccessible servers of Facebook, Google and the like. These communications services are free in order to control the freedom of data that might otherwise crash about randomly, generating few opportunities for sales.

Where this fails Facebook ratchets up the probability of influencing the user to behave as a predictable consumer. “Targeted advertisements often fail to earn a user’s trust in the advertised product,” explain Facebook’s programmers in U.S. Patent 8,527,344, filed in September of this year. “For example, the user may be skeptical of the claims made by the advertisement. Thus, targeted advertisements may not be very effective in selling an advertised product.” Facebook’s computer programmers who now profess mastery over sociological forces add that even celebrity endorsements are viewed with skepticism by the savvy citizen of the modulated Internet. They’re probably right.

Facebook’s solution is to mobilize its users as trusted advertisers in their own right. “Unlike advertisements, most users seek and read content generated by their friends within the social networking system; thus,” concludes Facebook’s mathematicians of human inducement, “advertisements generated by a friend of the user are more likely to catch the attention of the user, increasing the effectiveness of the advertisement.” That Facebook’s current So-And-So-likes-BrandX ads are often so clumsy and ineffective does not negate the qualitative shift in this model of advertising and the possibilities of un-freedom it evokes.

Forget iPhones and applications, the tech industry’s core consumer product is now advertising. Their essential practice is mass surveillance conducted in real time through continuous and multiple sensors that pass, for most people, entirely unnoticed. The autonomy and unpredictability of the individual —in Facebook’s language the individual is the “user”— is their fundamental business problem. Reducing autonomy via surveillance and predictive algorithms that can placate existing desires, and even stimulate and mold new desires is the tech industry’s reason for being. Selling their capacious surveillance and consumer stimulus capabilities to the highest bidder is the ultimate end.

Sounds too dystopian? Perhaps, and this is by no means the world we live in, not yet. It is, however, a tendency rooted in the tech economy. The advent of mobile, hand-held, wirelessly networked computers, called “smartphones,” is still so new that the technology, and its services feel like a parallel universe, a new layer of existence added upon our existing social relationships, business activities, and political affiliations. In many ways it feels liberating and often playful. Our devices can map geographic routes, identify places and things, provide information about almost anything in real time, respond to our voices, and replace our wallets. Who hasn’t consulted “Dr. Google” to answer a pressing question? Everyone and everything is seemingly within reach and there is a kind of freedom to this utility.

Most of Facebook’s “users” have only been registered on the web site since 2010, and so the quintessential social network feels new and fun, and although perhaps fraught with some privacy concerns, it does not altogether fell like a threat to the autonomy of the individual. To say it is, is a cliche sci-fi nightmare narrative of tech-bureaucracy, and we all tell one another that the reality is more complex.

Privacy continues, however, too be too narrowly conceptualized as a liberal right against incursions of government, and while the tech companies have certainly been involved in a good deal of old-fashioned mass surveillance for the sake of our federal Big Brother, there’s another means of dissolving privacy that is more fundamental to the goals of the tech companies and more threatening to social creativity and political freedom.

Georgetown University law professor Julie Cohen notes that pervasive surveillance is inimical to the spaces of privacy that are required for liberal democracy, but she adds importantly, that the surveillance and advertising strategies of the tech industry goes further.

“A society that permits the unchecked ascendancy of surveillance infrastructures, which dampen and modulate behavioral variability, cannot hope to maintain a vibrant tradition of cultural and technical innovation,” writes Cohen in a forthcoming Harvard Law Review article.

“Modulation” is Cohen’s term for the tech industry’s practice of using algorithms and other logical machine operations to mine an individual’s data so as to continuously personalize information streams. Facebook’s patents are largely techniques of modulation, as are Google’s and the rest of the industry leaders. Facebook conducts meticulous surveillance on users, collects their data, tracks their movements on the web, and feeds the individual specific content that is determined to best resonate with their desires, behaviors, and predicted future movements. The point is to perfect the form and function of the rational-instrumental bureaucracy as defined by Max Weber: to constantly ratchet up efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. If they succeed in their own terms, the tech companies stand to create a feedback loop made perfectly to fit each an every one of us, an increasingly closed systems of personal development in which the great algorithms in the cloud endlessly tailor the psychological and social inputs of humans who lose the gift of randomness and irrationality.

“It is modulation, not privacy, that poses the greater threat to innovative practice,” explains Cohen. “Regimes of pervasively distributed surveillance and modulation seek to mold individual preferences and behavior in ways that reduce the serendipity and the freedom to tinker on which innovation thrives.” Cohen has pointed out the obvious irony here, not that it’s easy to miss; the tech industry is uncritically labeled America’s hothouse of innovation, but it may in fact be killing innovation by disenchanting the world and locking inspiration in an cage.

If there were limits to the reach of the tech industry’s surveillance and stimuli strategies it would indeed be less worrisome. Only parts of our lives would be subject to this modulation, and it could therefore benefit us. But the industry aspires to totalitarian visions in which universal data sets are constantly mobilized to transform an individual’s interface with society, family, the economy, and other institutions. The tech industry’s luminaries are clear in their desire to observe and log everything, and use every “data point” to establish optimum efficiency in life as the pursuit of consumer happiness. Consumer happiness is, in turn, a step toward the rational pursuit of maximum corporate profit. We are told that the “Internet of things” is arriving, that soon every object will have embedded within it a computer that is networked to the sublime cloud, and that the physical environment will be made “smart” through the same strategy of modulation so that we might be made free not just in cyberspace, but also in the meatspace.

Whereas the Internet of the late 1990s matured as an archipelago of innumerable disjointed and disconnected web sites and databases, today’s Internet is gripped by a handful of giant companies that observe much of the traffic and communications, and which deliver much of the information from an Android phone or laptop computer, to distant servers, and back. The future Internet being built by the tech giants —putting aside the Internet of things for the moment— is already well into its beta testing phase. It’s a seamlessly integrated quilt of web sites and apps that all absorb “user” data, everything from clicks and keywords to biometric voice identification and geolocation.

United States Patent 8,572,174, another of Facebook’s recent inventions, allows the company to personalize a web page outside of Facebook’s own system with content from Facebook’s databases. Facebook is selling what the company calls its “rich set of social information” to third party web sites in order to “provide personalized content for their users based on social information about those users that is maintained by, or otherwise accessible to, the social networking system.” Facebook’s users generated this rich social information, worth many billions of dollars as recent quarterly earnings of the company attest.

In this way the entire Internet becomes Facebook. The totalitarian ambition here is obvious, and it can be read in the securities filings, patent applications, and other non-sanitized business documents crafted by the tech industry for the financial analysts who supply the capital for further so-called innovation. Everywhere you go on the web, with your phone or tablet, you’re a “user,” and your social network data will be mined every second by every application, site, and service to “enhance your experience,” as Facebook and others say. The tech industry’s leaders aim to expand this into the physical world, creating modulated advertising and environmental experiences as cameras and sensors track our movements.

Facebook and the rest of the tech industry fear autonomy and unpredictability. The ultimate expression of these irrational variables that cannot be mined with algorithmic methods is absence from the networks of surveillance in which data is collected.

One of Facebook’s preventative measures is United States Patent 8,560,962, “promoting participation of low-activity users in social networking system.” This novel invention devised by programmers in Facebook’s Palo Alto and San Francisco offices involves a “process of inducing interactions,” that are meant to maximize the amount of “user-generated content” on Facebook by getting lapsed users to return, and stimulating all users to produce more and more data. User generated content is, after all, worth billions. Think twice before you hit “like” next time, or tap that conspicuously placed “share” button; a machine likely put that content and interaction before your eyes after a logical operation determined it to have the highest probability of tempting you to add to the data stream, thereby increasing corporate revenues.

Facebook’s patents on techniques of modulating “user” behavior are few compared to the real giants of the tech industry’s surveillance and influence agenda. Amazon, Microsoft, and of course Google hold some of the most fundamental patents using personal data to attempt to shape an individual’s behavior into predictable consumptive patterns. Smaller specialized firms like Choicestream and Gist Communications have filed dozens more applications for modulation techniques. The rate of this so-called innovation is rapidly telescoping.

Perhaps we do know who will live in the iron cage. It might very well be a cage made of our own user generated content, paradoxically ushering in a new era of possibilities in shopping convenience and the delivery of satisfactory experiences even while it eradicates many degrees of chance, and pain, and struggle (the motive forces of human progress) in a robot-powered quest to have us construct identities and relationships that yield to prediction and computer-generated suggestion. Defense of individual privacy and autonomy today is rightly motivated by the reach of an Orwellian security state (the NSA, FBI, CIA). This surveillance changes our behavior by chilling us, by telling us we are always being watched by authority. Authority thereby represses in us whatever might happen to be defined as “crime,” or any anti-social behavior at the moment. But what about the surveillance that does not seek to repress us, the watching computer eyes and ears that instead hope to stimulate a particular set of monetized behaviors in us with the intimate knowledge gained from our every online utterance, even our facial expressions and finger movements?

Darwin Bond-Graham, a contributing editor to CounterPunch, is a sociologist and author who lives and works in Oakland, CA. His essay on economic inequality in the “new” California economy appears in theJuly issue of CounterPunch magazine. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion

Darwin Bond-Graham, a contributing editor to CounterPunch, is a sociologist and author who lives and works in Oakland, CA. His essay on economic inequality in the “new” California economy appears in theJuly issue of CounterPunch magazine. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion

By Darwin Bond-Graham
December 4, 2013

Find this story at 4 December 2013

copyright http://www.alternet.org/

Who Owns Photos and Videos Posted on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter?

Well, it depends on what you mean as “own.” Under copyright law, unless there is an agreement to the contrary or the photograph or video is shot as part of your job, a copyright to a photograph generally belongs to the creator. As the copyright owner, you own the exclusive rights to display, copy, use, produce, distribute and perform your creation as you see fit and approve. As the subject of the photograph, you have a right to publicity, which allows you to get paid for the commercial use of your name, likeness or voice.
But what happens when you decide to post that picture on the Internet — perhaps on Facebook or Twitter (using Twitpic), or some other social network or photo-sharing site?
You may be shocked to find out that once you post on these sites, that although you still “own” the photograph, you grant the social media sites a license to use your photograph anyway they see fit for free AND you grant them the right to let others use you picture as well! This means that not only can Twitter, Twitpic and Facebook make money from the photograph or video (otherwise, a copyright violation), but these sites are making commercial gain by licensing these images, which contains the likeness of the person in the photo or video (otherwise, a violation of their “rights of publicity”).
Facebook
Under Facebook’s current terms (which can change at anytime), by posting your pictures and videos, you grant Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any [IP] content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it. Beware of the words “transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license.” This means that Facebook can license your content to others for free without obtaining any other approval from you! You should be aware that once your photos or videos are shared on Facebook, it could be impossible to delete them from Facebook, even if you delete the content or cancel your account (the content still remains on Facebook servers and they can keep backups)! So, although you may be able to withdraw your consent to the use of photos on Facebook, you should also keep in mind that if you share your photos and videos with Facebook applications, those applications may have their own terms and conditions of how they use your creation! You should read the fine print to make sure you are not agreeing to something that you don’t want to have happen.
Twitter
Twitter’s photo sharing service, Twitpic, just updated their terms of Service on May 10, 2011 (which, of course, can and will be updated at any time, from time to time). By uploading content using Twitpic, you are giving “Twitpic permission to use or distribute your content on Twitpic.com or affiliated sites.” You are also granting “Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.”
The terms go on to state that you also grant “each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service. The above licenses granted by you in media Content you submit to the Service terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete your media from the Service provided that any sub-license by Twitpic to use, reproduce or distribute the Content prior to such termination may be perpetual and irrevocable.”
Twitpic/Twitter is probably more problematic than Facebook — They can sell your images and videos if they want!
First, there is no definition of “Service” on their site (they need to find a more detailed oriented internet attorney to draft their terms (Twitpic, call me)), so your photo could be used throughout the Internet. More troubling is that your photos and videos may be reprinted and used in anything without your getting paid a dime – books, magazines, movies, TV shows, billboards — you get the picture!
Second, Twitter can create derivative works from your creations. A derivative work is anything that is built upon your work (like adding your video to a TV show, putting your photo in a montage, etc.).
Third, even after you delete your photos from Twitpic, Twitter and Twitpic can still use your creations for a “reasonable” amount of time afterwards. So what would be a reasonable amount of time to continue using your photo after you terminate the “license” if your photo or video is incorporated by Twitter or Twitpic in a larger work — perhaps forever if it would cost them money to remove!
Lastly, since Twitter/Twitpic can grant others to use your photos (and make money from it without paying you (remember the nasty word “œroyalty-free”)), even if you terminate your Twitter/Twitpic account, the rights they grant to others can never be terminated! Twitter has a deal with World Entertainment News Network permitting them to sell Twitpic content with no money to you!
Celebrities and celebrities-to-be, beware! Your right to publicity (e.g. your right to get paid when others use your name, likeness, voice for commercial gain like product or sports endorsements) is stripped away each and every time you post on Twitter! You or your intellectual property attorney should read the fine print before you post your photos or videos on Twitter or Facebook!
December 19, 2012 UPDATE
Instagram
Well Facebook was at it again (changing their terms of service for their latest acquisition, Instagram). The proposed changes are to take place on January 16, 2013. Basically, Instagram had a brilliant idea to generate money off the backs of their members. The proposed terms of service explicitly state “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.”
This means that Instagram can make money from advertisers that want to use your face or pictures of your loved ones on any advertising (TV, web, magazines, newspapers, etc.) and never pay you a penny! Even worse, if you are under 18 (which means you don’t have the legal capacity to enter into a contract) you are making a contractual agreement that you have asked your parents permission to agree to the Instagram terms. This not only is an egregious position (see discussion above about rights of publicity), but defies logic — Instagram acknowledges that minors can’t enter into a contract, but nevertheless for the under-18, force them to agree by (unenforceable) contract that they have permission anyway. Go figure! [Finally there is a reason to go back to the old 2-hour Kodak Carousel slide shows of aunt Sally’s vacation.]
[December 21, 2012 UPDATE]
Instagram announced today that it was backing off of its proposed T&C’s to be able to sell content without paying the members. But a closer look of their replacement terms of use are just as bad. “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy. . .” This means that Instagram can still sublicense your photos to any company for a fee (without paying the member)! And it gets worse. For instance, let’s say a posted photo is of a celebrity. Instagram then licenses that picture to an advertiser. But then the advertiser gets sued by the celebrity for violation of their right of privacy (who in turn sues Instagram). You the poster would have to indemnify Instagram because in section 4(iii) of the terms, “(iii) you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owed by reason of Content you post on or through the Service.” Bottom line – Instagram stil gets to sell your pictures without paying you and you can be liable in the event they have to return that money to the advertiser!

Find this story at december 2012

© 2012 Law Offices of Craig Delsack, LLC

Your Facebook Data File: Everything You Never Wanted Anyone to Know

A group of Austrian students called Europe v. Facebook recently got their hands on their complete Facebook user data files – note, this is not the same file Facebook sends if you request your personal history through the webform in Account Settings.

See, Facebook wants you to feel safe and warm and fuzzy about controlling your own privacy. As we move into the era of the Open Graph and apps that autopost your activities, users are raising serious questions about data collection and privacy.

To help quell these fears, Facebook lets users download their their own data, as they said in an official statement to the Wall Street Journal blog Digits:

“We believe that every Facebook user owns his or her own data and should have simple and easy access to it. That is why we’ve built an easy way for people to download everything they have ever posted on Facebook, including all of their messages, posts, photos, status updates and profile information. People who want a copy of the information they have put on Facebook can click a link located in ‘Account Settings’ and easily get a copy of all of it in a single download. To protect the information, this feature is only available after the person confirms his or her password and answers appropriate security questions.”

Phew, that’s good. But wait… how come the students over at Europe v. Facebook got a different, more complete file when requested through Section 4 DPA + Art. 12 Directive 95/46/EG, a European privacy law? The carefully crafted statement above says they will give you access to everything you’ve put on Facebook – but what about the data Facebook collects without your knowledge?

What You May Not Get in Your Copy of Your Facebook File

facebook-message-report

On their website, Europe v. Facebook lists their primary objective as transparency, saying, “It is almost impossible for the user to really know what happens to his or her personal data when using facebook. For example ‘removed’ content is not really deleted by Facebook and it is often unclear what Facebook exactly does with our data.”

Indeed, the complete user file they received when requested through Section 4 DPA + Art. 12 Directive 95/46/EG is the same one available to attorneys and law enforcement via court order. It contains more information than the one Facebook sends users through their webform, according to Europe v. Facebook founder and law student Max Schrems, including:

Every friend request you’ve ever received and how you responded.
Every poke you’ve exchanged.
Every event you’ve been invited to through Facebook and how you responded.
The IP address used each and every time you’ve logged in to Facebook.
Dates of user name changes and historical privacy settings changes.
Camera metadata including time stamps and latitude/longitude of picture location, as well as tags from photos – even if you’ve untagged yourself.
Credit card information, if you’ve ever purchased credits or advertising on Facebook.
Your last known physical location, with latitude, longitude, time/date, altitude, and more. The report notes that they are unsure how Facebook collects this data.
One of Europe v. Facebook’s chief objections is that Facebook offers “no sufficient way of deleting old junk data.” Many of the complaints they’ve filed with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner* involve Facebook’s continued storage of data users believe they have deleted. Copies of the redacted files received through their requests are published on the Europe v. Facebook website.

Better Hope You’ve Behaved Yourself…

Ever flirted with someone other than your spouse in a Facebook chat? You had better hope your message records don’t end up in the hands of a divorce lawyer, because they can access even the ones you’ve deleted.

That day you called your employer in Chicago and begged off work, as you were sick? You logged in to Facebook from an IP address in Miami. Oops.

A few weeks ago, Australian hacker exposed Facebook’s practice of tracking logged out users and they quickly “fixed” the problem (after trying to defend it, initially). But the extent to which they collect and keep information users may not even realize they are giving Facebook in the first place – or believe they’ve deleted – is worrisome for privacy watchdogs.

The truly questionable thing is, the average user has no idea what their file contains and in North America, at least, have no right to access it. ITWorld’s Dan Tynan requested his, citing the U.S. Constitution, but received only an autoresponse telling him the form is only applicable in certain jurisdictions. In other words, if they’re not required to release your data to you by law, don’t hold your breath.

But then, maybe you’ll be one of the “lucky” ones who will have your activities brought up in court or a police investigation. There will be little left to the imagination, then.

What You Can Do About It

We contacted Max Schrems and asked whether Europe v. Facebook is able to help users, even those in other jurisdictions, to access their personal files. Though they receive emails from around the world, he said, their focus is on the 22 active complaints they currently have registered with the Irish Data Protection Commission. Residents of the European Union can fill out the online form on Facebook’s website (this is not the Account Settings form, but a request for the full file).

Schrems did offer tips for all users who want to curb the amount of information they’re handing over to Facebook from this point forward. “I would frequently check my privacy settings, turn everything to ‘Friends only’ and turn off ‘Platform.’ Users have to realize that you don’t just share with your Friends, but you always share with your Friends AND Facebook.”

Judging by the sheer difference in file sizes, comparing the personally requested vs. legally requested files Schrems and Europe v. Facebook received, there’s a lot of data left on the table. For the same user, the file sizes varied enormously. Schrems described the file obtained through a legal request as a 500MB PDF including data the user thought they had deleted. The one sent through a regular Facebook request was a 150MB HTML file and included video (the PDF did not) but did not have the deleted data.

We reached out to Facebook for comment but had not received a response by the time of publication.

*Europe v. Facebook files their complaints in Ireland, as Facebook’s User Terms list their Ireland office as headquarters for all Facebook affairs outside of Canada and the U.S.

Miranda Miller, October 3, 2011

Find this story at 3 October 2011

© 2014 Incisive Interactive Marketing LLC.

What Facebook Knows

The company’s social scientists are hunting for insights about human behavior. What they find could give Facebook new ways to cash in on our data—and remake our view of society.

Cameron Marlow calls himself Facebook’s “in-house sociologist.” He and his team can analyze essentially all the information the site gathers.

If Facebook were a country, a conceit that founder Mark Zuckerberg has entertained in public, its 900 million members would make it the third largest in the world.

It would far outstrip any regime past or present in how intimately it records the lives of its citizens. Private conversations, family photos, and records of road trips, births, marriages, and deaths all stream into the company’s servers and lodge there. Facebook has collected the most extensive data set ever assembled on human social behavior. Some of your personal information is probably part of it.

And yet, even as Facebook has embedded itself into modern life, it hasn’t actually done that much with what it knows about us. Now that the company has gone public, the pressure to develop new sources of profit (see “The Facebook Fallacy”) is likely to force it to do more with its hoard of information. That stash of data looms like an oversize shadow over what today is a modest online advertising business, worrying privacy-conscious Web users (see “Few Privacy Regulations Inhibit Facebook”) and rivals such as Google. Everyone has a feeling that this unprecedented resource will yield something big, but nobody knows quite what.

FEW PRIVACY REGULATIONS INHIBIT FACEBOOK

Laws haven’t kept up with the company’s ability to mine its users’ data.
Even as Facebook has embedded itself into modern life, it hasn’t done that much with what it knows about us. Its stash of data looms like an oversize shadow. Everyone has a feeling that this resource will yield something big, but nobody knows quite what.

Heading Facebook’s effort to figure out what can be learned from all our data is Cameron Marlow, a tall 35-year-old who until recently sat a few feet away from ­Zuckerberg. The group Marlow runs has escaped the public attention that dogs Facebook’s founders and the more headline-grabbing features of its business. Known internally as the Data Science Team, it is a kind of Bell Labs for the social-networking age. The group has 12 researchers—but is expected to double in size this year. They apply math, programming skills, and social science to mine our data for insights that they hope will advance Facebook’s business and social science at large. Whereas other analysts at the company focus on information related to specific online activities, Marlow’s team can swim in practically the entire ocean of personal data that Facebook maintains. Of all the people at Facebook, perhaps even including the company’s leaders, these researchers have the best chance of discovering what can really be learned when so much personal information is compiled in one place.

Facebook has all this information because it has found ingenious ways to collect data as people socialize. Users fill out profiles with their age, gender, and e-mail address; some people also give additional details, such as their relationship status and mobile-phone number. A redesign last fall introduced profile pages in the form of time lines that invite people to add historical information such as places they have lived and worked. Messages and photos shared on the site are often tagged with a precise location, and in the last two years Facebook has begun to track activity elsewhere on the Internet, using an addictive invention called the “Like” button. It appears on apps and websites outside Facebook and allows people to indicate with a click that they are interested in a brand, product, or piece of digital content. Since last fall, Facebook has also been able to collect data on users’ online lives beyond its borders automatically: in certain apps or websites, when users listen to a song or read a news article, the information is passed along to Facebook, even if no one clicks “Like.” Within the feature’s first five months, Facebook catalogued more than five billion instances of people listening to songs online. Combine that kind of information with a map of the social connections Facebook’s users make on the site, and you have an incredibly rich record of their lives and interactions.

“This is the first time the world has seen this scale and quality of data about human communication,” Marlow says with a characteristically serious gaze before breaking into a smile at the thought of what he can do with the data. For one thing, Marlow is confident that exploring this resource will revolutionize the scientific understanding of why people behave as they do. His team can also help Facebook influence our social behavior for its own benefit and that of its advertisers. This work may even help Facebook invent entirely new ways to make money.

Contagious Information

Marlow eschews the collegiate programmer style of Zuckerberg and many others at Facebook, wearing a dress shirt with his jeans rather than a hoodie or T-shirt. Meeting me shortly before the company’s initial public offering in May, in a conference room adorned with a six-foot caricature of his boss’s dog spray-painted on its glass wall, he comes across more like a young professor than a student. He might have become one had he not realized early in his career that Web companies would yield the juiciest data about human interactions.

In 2001, undertaking a PhD at MIT’s Media Lab, Marlow created a site called Blogdex that automatically listed the most “contagious” information spreading on weblogs. Although it was just a research project, it soon became so popular that Marlow’s servers crashed. Launched just as blogs were exploding into the popular consciousness and becoming so numerous that Web users felt overwhelmed with information, it prefigured later aggregator sites such as Digg and Reddit. But Marlow didn’t build it just to help Web users track what was popular online. Blogdex was intended as a scientific instrument to uncover the social networks forming on the Web and study how they spread ideas. Marlow went on to Yahoo’s research labs to study online socializing for two years. In 2007 he joined Facebook, which he considers the world’s most powerful instrument for studying human society. “For the first time,” Marlow says, “we have a microscope that not only lets us examine social behavior at a very fine level that we’ve never been able to see before but allows us to run experiments that millions of users are exposed to.”

Marlow’s team works with managers across Facebook to find patterns that they might make use of. For instance, they study how a new feature spreads among the social network’s users. They have helped Facebook identify users you may know but haven’t “friended,” and recognize those you may want to designate mere “acquaintances” in order to make their updates less prominent. Yet the group is an odd fit inside a company where software engineers are rock stars who live by the mantra “Move fast and break things.” Lunch with the data team has the feel of a grad-student gathering at a top school; the typical member of the group joined fresh from a PhD or junior academic position and prefers to talk about advancing social science than about Facebook as a product or company. Several members of the team have training in sociology or social psychology, while others began in computer science and started using it to study human behavior. They are free to use some of their time, and Facebook’s data, to probe the basic patterns and motivations of human behavior and to publish the results in academic journals—much as Bell Labs researchers advanced both AT&T’s technologies and the study of fundamental physics.

It may seem strange that an eight-year-old company without a proven business model bothers to support a team with such an academic bent, but ­Marlow says it makes sense. “The biggest challenges Facebook has to solve are the same challenges that social science has,” he says. Those challenges include understanding why some ideas or fashions spread from a few individuals to become universal and others don’t, or to what extent a person’s future actions are a product of past communication with friends. Publishing results and collaborating with university researchers will lead to findings that help Facebook improve its products, he adds.

Eytan Bakshy experimented with the way Facebook users shared links so that his group could study whether the site functions like an echo chamber.

For one example of how Facebook can serve as a proxy for examining society at large, consider a recent study of the notion that any person on the globe is just six degrees of separation from any other. The best-known real-world study, in 1967, involved a few hundred people trying to send postcards to a particular Boston stockholder. Facebook’s version, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Milan, involved the entire social network as of May 2011, which amounted to more than 10 percent of the world’s population. Analyzing the 69 billion friend connections among those 721 million people showed that the world is smaller than we thought: four intermediary friends are usually enough to introduce anyone to a random stranger. “When considering another person in the world, a friend of your friend knows a friend of their friend, on average,” the technical paper pithily concluded. That result may not extend to everyone on the planet, but there’s good reason to believe that it and other findings from the Data Science Team are true to life outside Facebook. Last year the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 93 percent of Facebook friends had met in person. One of Marlow’s researchers has developed a way to calculate a country’s “gross national happiness” from its Facebook activity by logging the occurrence of words and phrases that signal positive or negative emotion. Gross national happiness fluctuates in a way that suggests the measure is accurate: it jumps during holidays and dips when popular public figures die. After a major earthquake in Chile in February 2010, the country’s score plummeted and took many months to return to normal. That event seemed to make the country as a whole more sympathetic when Japan suffered its own big earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011; while Chile’s gross national happiness dipped, the figure didn’t waver in any other countries tracked (Japan wasn’t among them). Adam Kramer, who created the index, says he intended it to show that Facebook’s data could provide cheap and accurate ways to track social trends—methods that could be useful to economists and other researchers.

Other work published by the group has more obvious utility for Facebook’s basic strategy, which involves encouraging us to make the site central to our lives and then using what it learns to sell ads. An early study looked at what types of updates from friends encourage newcomers to the network to add their own contributions. Right before Valentine’s Day this year a blog post from the Data Science Team listed the songs most popular with people who had recently signaled on Facebook that they had entered or left a relationship. It was a hint of the type of correlation that could help Facebook make useful predictions about users’ behavior—knowledge that could help it make better guesses about which ads you might be more or less open to at any given time. Perhaps people who have just left a relationship might be interested in an album of ballads, or perhaps no company should associate its brand with the flood of emotion attending the death of a friend. The most valuable online ads today are those displayed alongside certain Web searches, because the searchers are expressing precisely what they want. This is one reason why Google’s revenue is 10 times Facebook’s. But Facebook might eventually be able to guess what people want or don’t want even before they realize it.

Recently the Data Science Team has begun to use its unique position to experiment with the way Facebook works, tweaking the site—the way scientists might prod an ant’s nest—to see how users react. Eytan Bakshy, who joined Facebook last year after collaborating with Marlow as a PhD student at the University of Michigan, wanted to learn whether our actions on Facebook are mainly influenced by those of our close friends, who are likely to have similar tastes. That would shed light on the theory that our Facebook friends create an “echo chamber” that amplifies news and opinions we have already heard about. So he messed with how Facebook operated for a quarter of a billion users. Over a seven-week period, the 76 million links that those users shared with each other were logged. Then, on 219 million randomly chosen occasions, Facebook prevented someone from seeing a link shared by a friend. Hiding links this way created a control group so that Bakshy could assess how often people end up promoting the same links because they have similar information sources and interests.

He found that our close friends strongly sway which information we share, but overall their impact is dwarfed by the collective influence of numerous more distant contacts—what sociologists call “weak ties.” It is our diverse collection of weak ties that most powerfully determines what information we’re exposed to.

That study provides strong evidence against the idea that social networking creates harmful “filter bubbles,” to use activist Eli Pariser’s term for the effects of tuning the information we receive to match our expectations. But the study also reveals the power Facebook has. “If [Facebook’s] News Feed is the thing that everyone sees and it controls how information is disseminated, it’s controlling how information is revealed to society, and it’s something we need to pay very close attention to,” Marlow says. He points out that his team helps Facebook understand what it is doing to society and publishes its findings to fulfill a public duty to transparency. Another recent study, which investigated which types of Facebook activity cause people to feel a greater sense of support from their friends, falls into the same category.

Facebook is not above using its platform to tweak users’ behavior, as it did by nudging them to register as organ donors. Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.

But Marlow speaks as an employee of a company that will prosper largely by catering to advertisers who want to control the flow of information between its users. And indeed, Bakshy is working with managers outside the Data Science Team to extract advertising-related findings from the results of experiments on social influence. “Advertisers and brands are a part of this network as well, so giving them some insight into how people are sharing the content they are producing is a very core part of the business model,” says Marlow.

Facebook told prospective investors before its IPO that people are 50 percent more likely to remember ads on the site if they’re visibly endorsed by a friend. Figuring out how influence works could make ads even more memorable or help Facebook find ways to induce more people to share or click on its ads.

Social Engineering

Marlow says his team wants to divine the rules of online social life to understand what’s going on inside Facebook, not to develop ways to manipulate it. “Our goal is not to change the pattern of communication in society,” he says. “Our goal is to understand it so we can adapt our platform to give people the experience that they want.” But some of his team’s work and the attitudes of Facebook’s leaders show that the company is not above using its platform to tweak users’ behavior. Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.

In April, influenced in part by conversations over dinner with his med-student girlfriend (now his wife), Zuckerberg decided that he should use social influence within Facebook to increase organ donor registrations. Users were given an opportunity to click a box on their Timeline pages to signal that they were registered donors, which triggered a notification to their friends. The new feature started a cascade of social pressure, and organ donor enrollment increased by a factor of 23 across 44 states.

Marlow’s team is in the process of publishing results from the last U.S. midterm election that show another striking example of Facebook’s potential to direct its users’ influence on one another. Since 2008, the company has offered a way for users to signal that they have voted; Facebook promotes that to their friends with a note to say that they should be sure to vote, too. Marlow says that in the 2010 election his group matched voter registration logs with the data to see which of the Facebook users who got nudges actually went to the polls. (He stresses that the researchers worked with cryptographically “anonymized” data and could not match specific users with their voting records.)

Sameet Agarwal figures out ways for Facebook to manage its enormous trove of data—giving the company a unique and valuable level of expertise.

This is just the beginning. By learning more about how small changes on Facebook can alter users’ behavior outside the site, the company eventually “could allow others to make use of Facebook in the same way,” says Marlow. If the American Heart Association wanted to encourage healthy eating, for example, it might be able to refer to a playbook of Facebook social engineering. “We want to be a platform that others can use to initiate change,” he says.

Advertisers, too, would be eager to know in greater detail what could make a campaign on Facebook affect people’s actions in the outside world, even though they realize there are limits to how firmly human beings can be steered. “It’s not clear to me that social science will ever be an engineering science in a way that building bridges is,” says Duncan Watts, who works on computational social science at Microsoft’s recently opened New York research lab and previously worked alongside Marlow at Yahoo’s labs. “Nevertheless, if you have enough data, you can make predictions that are better than simply random guessing, and that’s really lucrative.”

Doubling Data

Like other social-Web companies, such as Twitter, Facebook has never attained the reputation for technical innovation enjoyed by such Internet pioneers as Google. If Silicon Valley were a high school, the search company would be the quiet math genius who didn’t excel socially but invented something indispensable. Facebook would be the annoying kid who started a club with such social momentum that people had to join whether they wanted to or not. In reality, Facebook employs hordes of talented software engineers (many poached from Google and other math-genius companies) to build and maintain its irresistible club. The technology built to support the Data Science Team’s efforts is particularly innovative. The scale at which Facebook operates has led it to invent hardware and software that are the envy of other companies trying to adapt to the world of “big data.”

In a kind of passing of the technological baton, Facebook built its data storage system by expanding the power of open-source software called Hadoop, which was inspired by work at Google and built at Yahoo. Hadoop can tame seemingly impossible computational tasks—like working on all the data Facebook’s users have entrusted to it—by spreading them across many machines inside a data center. But Hadoop wasn’t built with data science in mind, and using it for that purpose requires specialized, unwieldy programming. Facebook’s engineers solved that problem with the invention of Hive, open-source software that’s now independent of Facebook and used by many other companies. Hive acts as a translation service, making it possible to query vast Hadoop data stores using relatively simple code. To cut down on computational demands, it can request random samples of an entire data set, a feature that’s invaluable for companies swamped by data. Much of Facebook’s data resides in one Hadoop store more than 100 petabytes (a million gigabytes) in size, says Sameet Agarwal, a director of engineering at Facebook who works on data infrastructure, and the quantity is growing exponentially. “Over the last few years we have more than doubled in size every year,” he says. That means his team must constantly build more efficient systems.

One potential use of Facebook’s data storehouse would be to sell insights mined from it. Such information could be the basis for any kind of business. Assuming Facebook can do this without upsetting users and regulators, it could be lucrative.

All this has given Facebook a unique level of expertise, says Jeff Hammerbacher, Marlow’s predecessor at Facebook, who initiated the company’s effort to develop its own data storage and analysis technology. (He left Facebook in 2008 to found Cloudera, which develops Hadoop-based systems to manage large collections of data.) Most large businesses have paid established software companies such as Oracle a lot of money for data analysis and storage. But now, big companies are trying to understand how Facebook handles its enormous information trove on open-source systems, says Hammerbacher. “I recently spent the day at Fidelity helping them understand how the ‘data scientist’ role at Facebook was conceived … and I’ve had the same discussion at countless other firms,” he says.

As executives in every industry try to exploit the opportunities in “big data,” the intense interest in Facebook’s data technology suggests that its ad business may be just an offshoot of something much more valuable. The tools and techniques the company has developed to handle large volumes of information could become a product in their own right.

Mining for Gold

Facebook needs new sources of income to meet investors’ expectations. Even after its disappointing IPO, it has a staggeringly high price-to-earnings ratio that can’t be justified by the barrage of cheap ads the site now displays. Facebook’s new campus in Menlo Park, California, previously inhabited by Sun Microsystems, makes that pressure tangible. The company’s 3,500 employees rattle around in enough space for 6,600. I walked past expanses of empty desks in one building; another, next door, was completely uninhabited. A vacant lot waited nearby, presumably until someone invents a use of our data that will justify the expense of developing the space.

One potential use would be simply to sell insights mined from the information. DJ Patil, data scientist in residence with the venture capital firm Greylock Partners and previously leader of LinkedIn’s data science team, believes Facebook could take inspiration from Gil Elbaz, the inventor of Google’s AdSense ad business, which provides over a quarter of Google’s revenue. He has moved on from advertising and now runs a fast-growing startup, Factual, that charges businesses to access large, carefully curated collections of data ranging from restaurant locations to celebrity body-mass indexes, which the company collects from free public sources and by buying private data sets. Factual cleans up data and makes the result available over the Internet as an on-demand knowledge store to be tapped by software, not humans. Customers use it to fill in the gaps in their own data and make smarter apps or services; for example, Facebook itself uses Factual for information about business locations. Patil points out that Facebook could become a data source in its own right, selling access to information compiled from the actions of its users. Such information, he says, could be the basis for almost any kind of business, such as online dating or charts of popular music. Assuming Facebook can take this step without upsetting users and regulators, it could be lucrative. An online store wishing to target its promotions, for example, could pay to use Facebook as a source of knowledge about which brands are most popular in which places, or how the popularity of certain products changes through the year.

Hammerbacher agrees that Facebook could sell its data science and points to its currently free Insights service for advertisers and website owners, which shows how their content is being shared on Facebook. That could become much more useful to businesses if Facebook added data obtained when its “Like” button tracks activity all over the Web, or demographic data or information about what people read on the site. There’s precedent for offering such analytics for a fee: at the end of 2011 Google started charging $150,000 annually for a premium version of a service that analyzes a business’s Web traffic.

Back at Facebook, Marlow isn’t the one who makes decisions about what the company charges for, even if his work will shape them. Whatever happens, he says, the primary goal of his team is to support the well-being of the people who provide Facebook with their data, using it to make the service smarter. Along the way, he says, he and his colleagues will advance humanity’s understanding of itself. That echoes Zuckerberg’s often doubted but seemingly genuine belief that Facebook’s job is to improve how the world communicates. Just don’t ask yet exactly what that will entail. “It’s hard to predict where we’ll go, because we’re at the very early stages of this science,” says ­Marlow. “The number of potential things that we could ask of Facebook’s data is enormous.”

Tom Simonite is Technology Review’s senior IT editor.
By Tom Simonite on June 13, 2012 20 COMMENTS

Find this story at 13 June 2012

copyright http://www.technologyreview.com/

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline

If you feel like Facebook has more ads than usual, you aren’t imagining it: Facebook’s been inundating us with more and more ads lately, and using your information—both online and offline—to do it. Here’s how it works, and how you can opt out.

For most people, Facebook’s advertising system is insider-baseball that doesn’t really affect how we use the service. But as the targeted ads—the advertisements that take the data you provide to offer ads specific to you—get more accurate and start pulling in information from other sources (including the stuff you do offline), it’s more important than ever to understand their system. To figure out how this all works, I spoke with Elisabeth Diana, manager of corporate communication at Facebook. Let’s kick it off with the basics of how the targeted ads work online before moving on to some of the changes we’ll see with the recent inclusion of offline shopping data.

How Facebook Uses Your Profile to Target Ads

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
We’ve talked before about how Facebook uses you to annoy your friends by turning your likes into subtle ads. This method of sponsored posts is deceptively simple.

The most obvious example of a targeted ad uses something you like—say Target—and then shows an ad on the right side or in the newsfeed that simply says, “[Name] likes Target.” What you and your friends like helps determine what everyone on your friends list sees for ads. Any ad you click on then increases the likelihood of another similar ad.

It’s not just what you and your friends are doing that generates ads though; it’s also basic demographic information. Diana notes that this also includes “major life events like getting engaged or married.” So, if you’re recently engaged and note that on Facebook, you’ll see ads about things like wedding planning.

When an advertiser creates an ad on Facebook, they can select all sorts of parameters so they reach the right people. A simple example of a parameter would be: “Someone engaged to be married, who lives in New York, between the ages of 20-30.” That’s simple, but advertisers can actually narrow that down to insane specifics, like “Someone engaged to be married, who lives in New York, between the ages of 20-30, who likes swimming, and who drives a BMW.” If your profile fits those parameters, you’ll likely see the ad. If you want to see how it works, you can even try your hand at creating an ad.

It boils down to this: the more information you put about yourself on Facebook—where you live, your age, where (and if) you graduated college, the companies, brands, and activities you like, and even where you work—determines what kind of ads you’ll see. In theory, it makes it so targeted ads are more relevant to you.

What Happens When You Don’t Like or Share Anything

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
The way Facebook targets ads is based a lot around the information you provide. Using your likes, location, or age, Facebook puts you in a demographic and advertises to you. But what happens when you don’t include any of that information on your profile? It turns out that your friends are used to fill in the gaps.

Chances are, even a barebones profile has a few bits of information about you. You probably at least have where you live and your age. That combined with the information your friends provide creates a reasonable demographic that advertisers can still reach you at. The ads won’t be as spookily accurate to you as if you provide a lot of data, but they’ll at least be about as accurate as a television ad on your favorite show.

How to Keep Facebook from Targeting Ads Online

We know Facebook has an idea of what you’re doing online. That can be unsettling if you’re concerned about your privacy and you don’t want your online habits contributing to advertisements, or if you don’t like the idea of Facebook collecting data about you that you’re not willfully providing. You’ll “miss out” on targeted ads, but here here are a few tools to keep that from happening online:

Facebook Disconnect for Chrome and Firefox: Facebook gets notified when you visit a page that uses Facebook Connect (the little “Like” button you find on most web sites, including ours), and that data can be used to target ads. Facebook Disconnect stops that flow of data.
Facebook Privacy List for Adblock Plus: This subscription for Adblock Plus blocks Facebook plugins and scripts from running all over the web so your browsing data doesn’t get tied to your Facebook account.
DoNotTrackMe: DoNotTrackMe is another extension that blocks trackers and anyone who wants to collect your browsing data to create targeted ads.
Finally, you want to opt out of the Facebook Ads that use your actions (liking a page, sharing pages, etc) to promote ads to your friends:

Click the lock icon when you’re logged into Facebook and select “see more settings”.
Click the “Ads” tab on the sidebar.
Click “Edit” under “Third Party Sites” and change the setting to “No one.”
Click “Edit” under “Ads & Friends” and select “No One.” This disables Social Ads.
So, that takes care of the online advertising. Be sure to check out our guide to Facebook privacy for more information about all that. You can also hide your likes from your profile so they’re not as prominant. If you don’t actually mind the advertising, but want to improve the ads shown to you, you can always click the “X” next to any ad to get rid of it.

The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy
Keeping your Facebook info private is getting harder and harder all the time—mostly because…
Read more
How Facebook Uses Your Real World Shopping to Target Ads

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
EXPAND
Of course, you probably knew about a lot of that already. Using information in Facebook profile to target ads is old news, but with a few recent partnerships, Facebook is also going to use what you buy in real life stores to influence and track the ads you see. It sounds spooky, but it’s also older than you may realize.

To do this, Facebook is combining the information they have with information from data collection companies like Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon, and BlueKai. These companies already collect information about you through things like store loyalty cards, mailing lists, public records information (including home or car ownership), browser cookies, and more. For example, if you buy a bunch of detergent at Safeway, and use your Safeway card to get a discount, that information is cataloged and saved by a company like Datalogix.

How much do these data collecting companies know? According to The New York Times: way more than you’d think, including race, gender, economic status, buying habits, and more. Typically, they then sell this data to advertisers or corporations, but when it’s combined with your information from Facebook, they get an even better idea of what you like, where you shop, and what you buy. As Diana describes it, Facebook is “trying to give advertisers a chance to reach people both on and off Facebook,” and make advertisements more relevant to you. Photo by Joe Loong.

How Real-Life Ad Targetting Works

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline

The most shocking thing you’re going to find on Facebook is when something you do in the real world—say, buy a car, go shopping with a loyalty card at a grocery store, or sign up for an email list—actually impacts the ads you see. This is no different than any other direct marketing campaign like junk mail, but seeing it on Facebook might be a little unsettling at first. There are a couple reasons this might happen: custom audiences, and the recent partnerships with data collection companies we talked about earlier.

Custom audiences are very simple and it basically allows an advertiser to upload an email list and compare that data (privately) with who’s on Facebook. Diana offered the simple example of buying a car. Let’s say you purchase a car from a dealership, and when you do so, you give them your email address. That dealership wants to advertise on Facebook, so they upload a list of all the email addresses they have. That data is then made private, and Facebook pairs the email address with the one you registered on Facebook. If they match, you might see an ad from that dealership on Facebook for a discounted tune-up or something similar. Additionally, Lookalike audiences might be used to advertise to people similar to you because you purchased a car there. That might mean your friends (assuming you’re all similar) will see the same ad from the dealership.

The custom audiences can be used by any company advertising on Facebook. So, if you’re on your dentist’s email list, or that small bakery around the corner snagged your email for a free slice of pie, they can potentially reach you through this system.

The partnership with other data collection agencies like Acxiom and Datalogix is going to look a little different. This means that when you use something like a customer loyalty card at a grocery store, you might see a targeted ad that reflects that. The New York Times offers this example:

At the very least, said Ms. Williamson, an analyst with the research firm eMarketer, consumers will be “forced to become more aware of the data trail they leave behind them and how companies are putting all that data together in new ways to reach them.” She knows, for instance, that if she uses her supermarket loyalty card to buy cornflakes, she can expect to see a cornflakes advertisement when she logs in to Facebook.
A new targeting feature, Partner categories, takes the data collected by these third-party data brokers and puts you into a group. So, if you’re in a group of people who buys a lot of frozen pizza at Safeway, you’ll see ads for frozen pizza, and maybe other frozen foods.

It sounds a little weird at a glance, but it’s important to remember that this is all information that you’re already providing. Facebook is using data collected by outside companies to create a more accurate portrayal of you so marketers can advertise to you directly.

How Your Data Is Kept Private

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
All of this information being exchanged should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up a little. If anything goes wrong, it could leak a bunch of your private information all over the place. Or, at the very least, marketers would get a lot more information about you then you want like your username, email, and location data. To keep your information private, Facebook uses a system called hashing.

First, your personal information like email and name is encrypted. So, your name, login info, and anything else that would identify you as a person goes away. Then, Facebook turns the rest of the information into a series of numbers and letters using hashing. For example, Age: 31, Likes: Lifehacker, Swimming, BMW’s, Location: New York, turns into something like, “342asafk43255adjk.” Finally, this information is combined with what the data collection companies have on you to create a better picture of your shopping habits so they can target ads. Slate describes the system like so:

What they came up with was a Rube Goldbergian system that strips out personally identifiable information from the databases at Facebook, Datalogix, and the major retailers while still matching people and their purchases. The system works by creating three separate data sets. First, Datalogix “hashes” its database—that is, it turns the names, addresses and other personally identifiable data for each person in its logs into long strings of numbers. Facebook and retailers do the same thing to their data. Then, Datalogix compares its hashed data with Facebook’s to find matches. Each match indicates a potential test subject-someone on Facebook who is also part of Datalogix’s database. Datalogix runs a similar process with retailers’ transaction data. At the end of it all, Datalogix can compare the Facebook data and the retail data, but, importantly, none of the databases will include any personally identifiable data—so Facebook will never find out whether and when you, personally, purchased Tide, and Procter & Gamble and Kroger will never find out your Facebook profile.
From the actual advertisers point of view, the flow of information doesn’t reveal personal details. It just tells them how many potential customers might see an ad. “An advertiser would learn something like, ‘about 50% of your customers are on Facebook,'” says Diana, “But they don’t know who you are.” Image by Jorge Stolfi.

How to Opt Out of Offline Targetting

How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
EXPAND
Unlike the internal advertising system that uses the information you already provide to Facebook to give you ads, these new partnerships with real world data collection agencies go way beyond that. Now, they’re able to see what you’re buying at stores offline, and that’s disconcerting for a lot of people. The goal, of course, is more relevant ads, but that comes at the price of privacy and security. With all this data out there, it would be easy to get a very clear image of who you are, where you live, what you like, and even if you’re pregnant. Thankfully, opting out of the data collection companies also gets you out of the integration with Facebook (and everywhere else).

This process is a lot more complicated than it should be, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a step-by-step guide for each of the data brokers. Basically, you’ll need to opt out in three different places: Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon in order to ensure your shopping data in the real world isn’t used on Facebook (and beyond). BlueKai, unfortunately, has no direct way to opt out so you’ll need to use the browser extensions listed in the first section.

If you really want to keep those loyalty cards from tracking you, just use Jenny’s number (867-5309) at the checkout lane instead of setting up an account.

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Those are the basics of how Facebook’s various targeted advertising systems work. Of course, a lot of complex math and algorithms are in place to actually generate this data, but it really boils down to how much information you’re making public—whether you’re aware of it or not—that makes the system tick. If you like the targeted ads, they should improve even more as the years go on. If you don’t, opting out is always an option.

Thorin Klosowski
4/11/13 8:00am

Find this story at 4 November 2013

copyright http://lifehacker.com/

Facebook Tests Software to Track Your Cursor on Screen

Facebook Inc.FB -0.24% is testing technology that would greatly expand the scope of data that it collects about its users, the head of the company’s analytics group said Tuesday.

The social network may start collecting data on minute user interactions with its content, such as how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s newsfeed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin said Tuesday during an interview.

Facebook’s Ken Rudin
Mr. Rudin said the captured information could be added to a data analytics warehouse that is available for use throughout the company for an endless range of purposes–from product development to more precise targeting of advertising.

Facebook collects two kinds of data, demographic and behavioral. The demographic data—such as where a user lives or went to school—documents a user’s life beyond the network. The behavioral data—such as one’s circle of Facebook friends, or “likes”—is captured in real time on the network itself. The ongoing tests would greatly expand the behavioral data that is collected, according to Mr. Rudin. The tests are ongoing and part of a broader technology testing program, but Facebook should know within months whether it makes sense to incorporate the new data collection into the business, he said

New types of data Facebook may collect include “did your cursor hover over that ad … and was the newsfeed in a viewable area,” Mr. Rudin said. “It is a never-ending phase. I can’t promise that it will roll out. We probably will know in a couple of months,” said Mr. Rudin, a Silicon Valley veteran who arrived at Facebook in April 2012 from Zynga Inc.ZNGA -0.31%, where he was vice president of analytics and platform technologies.

As the head of analytics, Mr. Rudin is preparing the company’s infrastructure for a massive increase in the volume of its data.

Facebook isn’t the first company to contemplate recording such activity. Shutterstock Inc.SSTK +0.11%, a marketplace for digital images, records literally everything that its users do on the site. Shutterstock uses the open-source Hadoop distributed file system to analyze data such as where visitors to the site place their cursors and how long they hover over an image before they make a purchase. “Today, we are looking at every move a user makes, in order to optimize the Shutterstock experience….All these new technologies can process that,” Shutterstock founder and CEO Jon Oringer told the Wall Street Journal in March.

Facebook also is a major user of Hadoop, an open-source framework that is used to store large amounts of data on clusters of inexpensive machines. Facebook designs its own hardware to store its massive data analytics warehouse, which has grown 4,000 times during the last four years to a current level of 300 petabytes. The company uses a modified version of Hadoop to manage its data, according to Mr. Rudin. There are additional software layers on top of Hadoop, which rank the value of data and make sure it is accessible.

The data in the analytics warehouse—which is separate from the company’s user data, the volume of which has not been disclosed—is used in the targeting of advertising. As the company captures more data, it can help marketers target their advertising more effectively—assuming, of course, that the data is accessible.

“Instead of a warehouse of data, you can end up with a junkyard of data,” said Mr. Rudin, who spoke to CIO Journal during a break at the Strata and Hadoop World Conference in New York. He said that he has led a project to index that data, essentially creating an internal search engine for the analytics warehouse.

October 30, 2013, 7:15 AM ET
By STEVE ROSENBUSH

Find this story at 30 October 2013

Copyright ©2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc

The Bahamas Wants to Know Why the NSA is Recording Its Phone Calls

Government officials in the Bahamas want their U.S. counterparts to explain why the National Security Agency has been intercepting and recording every cell phone call taking place on the island nation.

Responding to a report published by The Intercept on Monday, which revealed that the NSA has been targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network and storing the audio of every phone call traversing the network for up to 30 days, Bahamian officials told the Nassau Guardian that they had contacted the U.S. and vowed to release a statement regarding the revelations.

In a front-page story published Tuesday, Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell told the Guardian that his government had reached out to the U.S. for an explanation. Mitchell said the cabinet was set to meet to discuss the matter and planned to issue a statement on the surveillance. The Bahamian minister of national security told the paper he intended to launch an inquiry into the NSA’s surveillance but did not provide a comment.

A source familiar with the situation told The Intercept that the cabinet meeting had indeed taken place, but an official in Mitchell’s office said there would be no comment Tuesday. “You’ll have to call back,” said the official, who did not identify herself.

Calls to the office of the prime minister went unanswered, as did a call to Bahamas Telecommunications Company, the Bahamas’ largest communications provider.

U.S. officials at the embassy in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, meanwhile, told the Guardian it would not comment on “every specific alleged intelligence activity.”

“The United States values its relationship with the Bahamas,” Neda Brown, a U.S. embassy spokesperson, told the paper. Contacted by The Intercept, Brown directed inquires to the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemispheres. The bureau did not return a request for comment made late Tuesday.

In addition to the Bahamas, The Intercept‘s report also revealed NSA’s targeting of mobile networks in Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines. Calls and emails to the embassies of each country were not returned Tuesday.

By Ryan Devereaux20 May 2014, 5:58 PM EDT 151

Find this story at 20 May 2014

© 2014 First Look Productions, Inc.

WikiLeaks ignores ‘deaths’ warning, threatens to name NSA-targeted country

Internet, Mass media, Security, USA, WikiLeaks
Despite warnings that doing so “could lead to increased violence” and potentially deaths, anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks says it plans to publish the name of a country targeted by a massive United States surveillance operation.

On Monday this week, journalists at The Intercept published a report based off of leaked US National Security Agency documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden which suggested that the NSA has been collecting in bulk the contents of all phone conversations made or received in two countries abroad.

Only one of those nations, however — the Bahamas — was named by The Intercept. The other, journalists Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras wrote this week, was withheld as a result of “credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.”

WikiLeaks has since accused The Intercept and its parent company First Look Media of censorship and says they will publish the identity of the country if the name remains redacted in the original article. The Intercept’s Greenwald fired back over Twitter, though, and said his outlet chose to publish more details than the Washington Post, where journalists previously reported on a related call collection program but chose to redact more thoroughly.

“We condemn Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation,” WikiLeaks tweeted on Monday.

“It is not the place of Firstlook or the Washington Post to deny the rights of an entire people to know they are being mass recorded,” WikiLeaks added. “It is not the place of Firstlook or WaPo to decide how a people will [choose] to act against mass breaches of their rights by the United States.”

When Greenwald defended his decision to publish the names of four countries where telephony metadata is collected by the NSA but withhold a fifth where content is recorded as well, WikiLeaks said it could be interpreted as meaning that the unknown country doesn’t deserve to know they’re being surveilled, but Greenwald said The Intercept was “very convinced” it could lead to deaths. Later, WikiLeaks equated this as an act of racism.

But as the conversation escalated, the WikiLeaks Twitter announced it would disclose the nation’s identify if The Intercept did not, despite requests from the US government to leave that information redact over fears of what the response could be.

“When has true published information harmed innocents?” WikiLeaks asked. “To repeat this false Pentagon talking point is to hurt all publishers.”

“We will reveal the name of the censored country whose population is being mass recorded in 72 hours,” WikiLeaks wrote at 6:35 p.m. EST Tuesday evening. If the organization intends to uphold that promise, that the identity of the country could be revealed before the weekend.

As RT reported earlier this week, The Intercept story made claims that the NSA has used a program codenamed MYSTIC to collect basic phone records in at least five countries, similar to the metadata that has been controversially collected in bulk domestically as revealed in one of the first documents released by Snowden last year. In the Bahamas and one more locale, though, The Intercept reported that NSA documents reveal another program, codenamed SOMALGET, is deployed in order to process “over 100 million call events per day.”

SOMALGET, the document reads, is a “program for embedded collection systems overtly installed on target networks, predominantly for the collection and processing of wireless/mobile communications networks.” According to The Intercept, the decision to wiretap all calls in and out of the Bahamas was made unilaterally and without the knowledge of the island’s government or its quarter-of-a-million people.

Published time: May 20, 2014 18:38
Edited time: May 22, 2014 11:17 Get short URL

Find this story at 20 May 2014

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