Lebanese Internal Security Force Requests Facebook Passwords, Text Messages Of All Citizens In The Country

from the only-Zuckerberg-himself-has-more-data dept

Here at Techdirt, we're used to seeing national security agencies make overly broad requests for personal data, often under the premise that the crime (or crimes) committed justifies these fishing expeditions that are as "targeted" as dropping a nuke into the ocean and keeping everything that floats to the surface. Vague assurances are usually given that any data not considered "relevant" will be discarded or ignored and, as such, couldn't possibly be considered a violation of privacy.

The Lebanese Internal Security Force looks like it might take the prize for Most Overreaching Data Request. The ISF is still looking for those responsible for the assassination of intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan in 2010 and figures that getting access to a little data might be helpful. All it's asking for is... everything.
[Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui] also revealed that his ministry received a request to hand over the contents of “text messages and passwords of Facebook and other internet accounts of all Lebanese across the country.”
There's nothing like an investigation whose list of suspects includes EVERY CITIZEN IN THE COUNTRY. The requested data doesn't include "political leaders and dignitaries," so at least there will be someone to pick the suspect out of the cross-Lebanon lineup.

Fortunately, this request was recommended for rejection, but at this point still remains in the "OPEN" file. The ISF has also issued two scaled down requests -- one for just everyone's SMS data -- and finally, one for just the SMS data from two provinces, covering only the two months prior to the attack of October 2010.

Even more fortunately, these slightly less inclusive requests also seem to be on their way to being rejected. The issue of the legality of these requests is still being debated, but early statements from the Interior Minister seem to indicate that nothing but the latest, most targeted request will even be considered, and even that may be deemed too broad. The Interior Minister did, however, make a brief argument for the final SMS data request, which features the sort of "promise" no citizen in their right mind should trust. 
The interior minister said that providing the SMS data to the security forces did not necessarily entail that all their contents will be revealed “and that the privacy of the Lebanese people will be violated.”

He added that it only the content of messages sent and received by those who came under the security forces’ suspicion will be accessed.
This would be a lot more convincing if the ISF hadn't already cast the entirety of Lebanon under suspicion with its first request. Handing over a bunch of private data to a national security force and trusting them to "just look at the bad guys' stuff" is just paving the infamous slippery slope for faster downhill travel.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 7:31am

    The requested data doesn't include "political leaders and dignitaries,"


    These people are obviously innocent of the assinatio, it couldn’t possibly have been part of a faction fight./s

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 7:32am

    The interior minister said that providing the SMS data to the security forces did not necessarily entail that all their contents will be revealed “and that the privacy of the Lebanese people will be violated.”

    I'm not sure if that's a typo or not, but it's a statement I can believe from any politician.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 7:53am

    why criticize or condemn Lebanon for wanting (demanding) this? tell me one other country that isn't doing, trying to do or doesn't want to do the same thing? eg, i believe the US wants to, but has just be stopped. i believe the UK wants to but has just been stopped (both the US and the UK are citing the same reasons for wanting to be able to have access to all communications from everyone. funny that, isn't it? anyone else think that the UK is stuck so far up the US arse, it doesn't know the way out?)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 7:57am

    Imagine if the IRS did the same thing.

    IRS Agent #1: Our books aren't adding up, someone didn't pay their taxes this year.
    IRS Agent #2: Any idea who it is?
    IRS Agent #1: Nope, you know what that means.
    IRS Agent #2: Yep, we got to search the email and text messages sent and received by every American, for evidence of illegally hiding money.
    IRS Agent #1: Don't forget, we also have to seize the balance sheets of all businesses operating in the US, for evidence of illegally not reporting their cash revenue.
    IRS Agent #2: Yep, seems like a perfectly reasonable request for information for a judge to sign a warrant on to me.
    IRS Agent #1: Yep, and seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption the two of us and the rest of the agency can go through a whole years worth of text messages and emails and balance sheets in a timely manner to find the tax cheat.

     

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      Michael, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 8:00am

      Re:

      "Yep, and seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption the two of us and the rest of the agency can go through a whole years worth of text messages and emails and balance sheets in a timely manner to find the tax cheat."

      If not, they can always outsource it to some offshore company.

       

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    Michael, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 7:59am

    Patriot Act

    They should just be asking the US government to help. The Patriot Act already lets them have all of this information anyway.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 8:00am

    Well, the Lebanese ISF has to ASK: the NSA already has YOURS!

    Another standard at Techdirt is worrying about some small foreign country while ignoring most of what your own gov'ts are doing.

    So, check "Foreign Intelligence Scare" off today's list...

     

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      Michael, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 8:02am

      Re: Well, the Lebanese ISF has to ASK: the NSA already has YOURS!

      "small foreign country"

      I'm sure the people of Lebanon would appreciate you considering them nothing more than a spec on the map.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 8:03am

      Re: Well, the Lebanese ISF has to ASK: the NSA already has YOURS!

      Try following the very first link on the article.

       

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      Reality Check, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 10:05am

      Re: Well, the Lebanese ISF has to ASK: the NSA already has YOURS!

      Moron... Since when has Techdirt ignored any of what our 'own gov'ts are doing'?

      ootb is the quintessential drive-by troll.

       

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      Rikuo (profile), Dec 11th, 2012 @ 11:39am

      Re: Well, the Lebanese ISF has to ASK: the NSA already has YOURS!

      OOtb...I must now ask a question of you, although I doubt this will be answered.

      Why the fuck do you not put any effort into what I shall kindly call your "criticisms"? Not once have you ever written a sentence on this site that doesn't pass the laugh test, or is not refuted easily within seconds.

      Please, if you are in opposition to us, put some fucking effort into it. Don't be the idiotic troll you are. Try for once.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 8:23am

    If it's good for Anti-Pirates, then why not for governments too.
    Sure it's only "criminals" personal data and IP addresses etc....
    Those cunt's are fighting the "good fight" against the people...no...criminals.... whateva !
    Shit like this makes me dislike Anti-Pirates even more.


    I know, it sounds like a tin-foil hat connection but it's not.
    Anti-Pirates, governments, private security, marketeers etc..... ALL profit from spying on us. They are all on the same team concerning this battle of "the people versus the powerful".

     

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    Todd (profile), Dec 11th, 2012 @ 10:02am

    Seems exactly backwards

    If you are investigating an assassination, wouldn't "political leaders and dignitaries" be pretty high on the list of people to look at? Maybe if the request was just for all of the data from "political leaders and dignitaries" it would make a lot more sense.

     

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    athe, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

    Uhh. . .

    If they have a small list of suspects, as inferred, then why not just ask for the data of that group? Sounds like they want to get that initial group plus anyone not already under suspicion in one fell swoop. Too hard to have to go back and ask for more later after analysing the first group's data?!

     

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      Prisoner 201, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:34am

      Re: Uhh. . .

      One explanation is that the guy that got assassinated was so wildly disliked that everyone in the same country had motive to kill him.

       

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    quawonk, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 5:07pm

    In other news, Facebook reports that there has been a sharp increase in Lebanese people changing their passwords.

     

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      quawonk, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 5:09pm

      Re:

      What's that, government spook? You can't access my account? Gee, I thought you were just going after the bad guys?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2012 @ 7:04pm

    The lesson of this story. Encrypt all your communications with strong encryption.

     

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    Bayan Rafeh, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 12:15am

    Oooh I can't wait for the finger pointing phase. Any move by the Lebanese government is described in eight axiomatic steps:

    1. Do something stupid
    2. Watch it backfire
    3. Issue 20 press releases of why it's the opposing side's fault. Hilarity ensues.
    4. 40 press releases issued by the opposing side saying why they're wrong.
    5. Blame Israel, Syria or Iran for some reason.
    6. Bring the country to the brink of civil war.
    7. Calm the hell down.
    8. Repeat.

    Compared to LIRA http://lira.ontornet.org/ this is pretty standard stupid.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Lebanon is a very strange place

    After 100 years of strife people in Lebanon are obsessed with security.

    Freedom there means the ability to walk across the road, walk down the road, ride in a buss, car, or truck, go to market for necessities including food, and talk to your neighbor with out being blown up, shot, or killed in an even more odious fashion.

    Freedom also means the ability to buy enough to eat (if you can not go to market you starve), having electricity for heat and cooling, having water, sewage, garbage removal, and open roads.

    An even higher level of freedom there is reached when one can obtain and keep a job that after kick backs and bribes allows one the ability to began to support one family.


    Freedom does not mean that one has the right or privilege to engage in political discussions, debates, or dialogs. There are just too many people that can and will deprive one of the right to live is one were foolish enough to say something that one group or another finds officense to their concept of thought control.

     

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