US Gov't Relying On 'Narcissistic Tendencies' To Get People To Accept Facebook Friend Requests To Spy On You

from the the-gov't-wants-to-be-your-friend dept

Were you wondering what the FBI was doing hanging out on Reddit, and using random out-of-context comments to put tracking devices on vehicles? Well, not surprisingly, the government's social networking voyeurism goes much further. Jay points us to the news, revealed via an EFF Freedom of Information Act request, that parts of the government are using social networks to try to "friend" people in order to keep track of them. They even point out that the general desire of individuals to collect more friends means that many won't wonder why a government official they don't know wants to be their friend:
Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of "friends" link to their pages and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don't even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.
Now, as the EFF notes, there's nothing wrong with law enforcement making use of social networking tools to try to deal with crime or terrorism. But they do wonder if the rules should be clearer, noting that:
the memo makes no mention of what level of suspicion, if any, an agent must find before conducting such surveillance, leaving every applicant as a potential target. Nor does the memo address whether or not DHS agents must reveal their government affiliation or even their real name during the friend request, leaving open the possibility that agents could actively deceive online users to infiltrate their social networks and monitor the activities of not only that user, but also the user's friends, family, and other associates.
So, no matter what your narcissistic tendencies might be, and your desire to collect as many friends as possible, perhaps think twice before friending random people you don't know.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Christopher Gizzi (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:13pm

    Nothing Better To Do?

    If really true, I can't believe we spend our tax dollars to have someone friend random people on Facebook. Can't they get the information they want some other way?

    And if someone ignores their friend request, do the Feds get a warrant? Is that reasonable suspicion of a crime or obstruction of justice? Tampering with an investigation?

     

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  2.  
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    DMNTD, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:19pm

    SImple...

    Its true they are using the numbers of friends to tap onto the walls of closed profiles etc. Probably monitored mostly by keywords filter. As for not getting on your list, just another one that got away...for now. MUHAHAHAH.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Add this to yet another reason to stay the hell away from Facebook and its clones.

     

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  4.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:29pm

    If the "Top Secret America" report is at all accurate,

    then about 1 in every hundred people are in "law enforcement" or the quasi-gov't surveillance state. We are living in a worse police state than East Germany or Soviet Russia, but the lesson to keep that fact quiet has been learned. -- Americans aren't any too perceptive, either.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    This looks more like the FBI wasting taxpayer money on entertainment than on actual and meaningful investigative work. I don't really mind them conducting their facebook friend investigations from a privacy standpoint because

    A: You can always deny them as a friend

    B: Most people post information on Facebook with the presumption that this information is likely available to anyone they know and might be available to anyone who inquired. So they are somewhat careful about not posting anything they wouldn't want anyone, including the feds, to know.

    Now if they can somehow spy on the information without the consent and/or knowledge of the person being spied on then a warrant needs to be granted (and hopefully there is a system in place that prevents judge shopping so that the warrant will be based on reasonable suspicion and not simply on an FBI request).

    Where this bothers me has more to do with the fact that it's a complete waste of taxpayer money. Having FBI people playing around on facebook instead of doing actual work doesn't help national security and instead deters resources that could better serve to secure us towards needless entertainment. If the FBI agent wants to do this on his spare time, when he is not being paid, so be it. But to waste our tax dollars on this nonsense seems uncalled for.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    I mean, seriously, what terrorist or criminal organization is going to use an open facebook account that they are going to accept some FBI agent onto to conduct their business on anyways? Normal citizens, with nothing to hide, are more likely to accept an FBI agent as a friend than are terrorists and criminals, who are likely to close their facebook to the public (assuming any of them would even use facebook for their operations, which seems unlikely). This will only serve to waste money spying on law abiding citizens and it won't be used to stop a single terrorist.

    Then again, there are some really dumb independent criminals out there, but they shouldn't really fall within the scope of the FBI. More within the scope of local police officers.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:55pm

    haven't ppl realized yet that privacy, is one of the only remaining scarcity?

    everyday, we are loosing more and more of it, and now with social networks we are giving it away?

     

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  8.  
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    Jay (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    This actually happened

    I've had at least three requests that I later had to delete because the person had no friends in common with me.

    The tendency for these "friends" is to have one profile picture up, no info is given, and you can see people from various states (or in one case countries) appear with no correlation. It's seriously almost the same as the spammers.

    But as others are saying, this spying really doesn't do anything to stop terrorism.

    And the idiots that start saying "Yargh, I set a house on fire!" on their FB account only lead the police right to them through other means.

     

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  9.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    Hrm, Maybe We should report these guys to Facebook...

    4.1 - You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.

    4.2 - You will not create more than one personal profile.

    4.3 - You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date. (Does this mean that have to put "Your local FBI office" in their address field)

    5.7 - If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

     

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  10.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    oops, forgot to mention, this is Facebook's Terms of Use

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    well if you are using facebook, myspace or what ever...you kinda deserve it

     

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  12.  
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    NullOp, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 1:16pm

    Social Nets

    Undirected social networks serve no purpose. They are a replication of high school in that the most popular people, i.e. those with the most friends, "wins". They are, by and large, a waste of bandwidth and computing power.

    Directed social networks, e.g. DailyMile.com, are very useful in that they allow people with something in common to commune and friend-gathering is not a goal.

    Understand this, if the government wants to spy on you...they will. They may be doing so already. If you think some law is going to keep them from doing something "dirty" then you best think again. Those that do the "watching" are already in a "dirty" business and the jump to bending and breaking the rules is a short one.

    Then again, what have you got to hide? Have you been spending time on chatroulette lately? In the long run we've all got a little larceny in us, don't we?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

    This is great idea from a government stand point. If they want to monitor someone on a watch list all they have to do is monitor the social network of the person if they have one. They can let the suspect hang themselves without a lot bugs and surveillance, they are saving tax payer dollars. They don't even have to provide the rope.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Re:

    Hrm, Maybe We should report these guys to Facebook...blah blah blah...

    Doesn't apply to law enforcement/government agents.

     

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  15.  
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    RandomGuy (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 9:37pm

    I see a few comments here along the lines of "waste of resources", but don't be so quick to discount facebook as an information gathering tool.

    One look through a person's photo albums (including photos they're tagged in) and friends list will immediately provide a high quality list of the people they they associate most often with.

    It would take months, if not years of surveillance to gather the kind of information that a facebook profile presents. Facebook Places also ups the ante, by providing a chronological list of location data. Priceless.

    Additionally, the cost to the observing agency is minimal.

    Of course, if anyone is stupid enough to use facebook for criminal deeds then they deserve what they're gonna get.

    Basic rules of internetting, people, if you're gonna use these services learn how to protect your privacy. Locking down your profile from outside views and denying friend requests from strangers should be a given.

     

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  16.  
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    Rekrul, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 10:53pm

    I don't have a single account on a "social networking" site and don't plan to. I once created an account on MySpace to be able to view someone's pictures, but it stopped working after a week. Maybe it was the honest description I put in my profile which said that I didn't want any "friends", and that I had only created the account to view pictures that are only available to members.

    I keep getting "friend" requests from random people on YouTube, but I just ignore them. I only created an account on there so that I could set the prefs to not have to confirm my age every time I tried to video a video that had been deemed "adult".

     

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  17.  
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    abc gum, Oct 16th, 2010 @ 9:25am

    Re: If the "Top Secret America" report is at all accurate,

    "We are living in a worse police state than East Germany or Soviet Russia,"

    Talkin out yer ass again?
    Or is that the voice of experience?

    From what little I've read about it, your claim seems a bit preposterous.

     

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  18.  
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    abc gum, Oct 16th, 2010 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re:

    So, those who do not have a facebook account are terrorists ..... haha - good one!

     

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  19.  
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    Lonzo5, Oct 16th, 2010 @ 9:55am

    FB TOS

    Isn't it a violation of Facebook's Terms of Service to provide false information when signing up? Oh, but I'm sure that doesn't apply to law enforcement...

     

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  20.  
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    possefan, Oct 16th, 2010 @ 4:39pm

    Aware & unconcerned

    Appreciate the articles surrounding this topic of late.
    Personally, have been aware but unconcerned about the possibility of having my actions monitored.
    The way I see it if you have something to hide, then your asking for intervention in the first place.
    Would people be so annoyed about surveilance if it saved their city or country from a large scale terrorist attack.
    Personally, it gives me comfort knowing that authorities use Social Media to ensure the safety of civilians.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2010 @ 8:18am

    Deactivate! Facebook is stupid! I don't want you knowing who my family is. Put all your personal info up there. Don't forget to tell us how much money you have so we can target you. If you think I'm paranoid, then you'll always be a sucker!

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2010 @ 8:23am

    Remember what Granny told me. 3 types of people to stay away from Son,
    1. Police
    2. Lawyers
    3. Politicians
    because they all lie for a living. None of them can be trusted to help you boy, because they will protect themselves first by lying about anything.
    She also told me about a 4th one that will misuse it's authority by hiding behind the law and that one is Judges. It's no wonder that they all represent the law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2010 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They may have a facebook, it just seems unlikely that any illegal activities will be communicated over their facebook account. Criminals could have social and family lives too you know.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    kb, Oct 18th, 2010 @ 5:47am

    Re:

    "I see a few comments here along the lines of "waste of resources", but don't be so quick to discount facebook as an information gathering tool."

    My observation has usually been that the people that spend the most time criticising law enforment are usually the ones that know the least about how cops et al. do their jobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    cyber crime figther, Oct 30th, 2010 @ 6:03am

    This is genius. Using a criminals innate wanting to be famous to catch them is good riddance. Somehow I think criminals most often wants to brag about their achievements anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Paginas Web, Jan 30th, 2011 @ 8:14am

    nice

    This is genius. best regards.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Derick Wade, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

    FascistBook

    Amazingly fortuitous article. A bunch of Government suits can sit around and accost people, not in their circle of friends,with "friend" requests and yet I send out requests to people I actually do know (apparently too many in one day according to some obscure FaceBook policy) and I'm unceremoniously logged out, chastised with a notice page and told i may not log back in until I check a little box acknowledging that I'm a manic "friender" and am aware that I've been white knuckled with a 7 day suspension of friending privs. I went to bed in Cali and woke up in China apparently. i smell a disparity of treatment/ special treatment tort. Damn you FaceHooker!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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