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.

Filed Under: lebanon, privacy, social media

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 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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