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.