Thursday, March 18, 2010

The social-networking police ~ By Phil Elmore

Phil Elmore discusses undercover police getting on the social network sites. That seems to be rather threatening to our privacy, and as Phil writes, "it is not the society our Constitution protects."

My first thought was that maybe law enforcement should be spending more of their efforts going after spammers and hackers.
This is not the society our Constitution protects. This is not the path we want to walk. This is not the way our government should be using technology – to monitor even our most innocent, benign and legal social activities.
By Phil Elmore

Posted: March 18, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

"And you wonder," wrote a conservative relative of mine, "why I don't want a Facebook account." He included a link to a news story he thought I would find of interest. I had previously described to him the benefits of social networking sites, but I had to admit, he had a very valid point.

A social networking site is, of course, a website like Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter. These are sites that allow people to waste time, to socialize, to network, to play games, to chat, and generally to stay connected to people in their lives and around the world. Such sites have redefined what it means to be a "friend." Where previously a friend was someone you knew and to whom you were (presumably) close, it now means someone who has opted to receive your status updates and who probably has permission to view the pictures, videos and notes you upload and compose.

Social networking sites are also changing the way we interact with people on a basic level, broadening our sphere of influence while diluting the nature of our associations. Many of us have "friends" on our social networking accounts whom we barely know – people we presume to be fellow travelers, ideologically or socially, who perhaps share common interests. Some of those "friends" are coworkers, who will "unfriend" us the second we leave that place of employment. A few of our "friends" aren't people at all, but corporate accounts or fan groups that promote a product or service we like. Some of our "friends" are celebrities, who also use social networking sites as marketing tools.

Some of our "friends" are government agents.

The news story e-mailed to me was from Tuesday of this week. It was headlined, "Feds consider going undercover on social networks". According to Declan McCullagh at CNET (whose work I cite often), "the Obama administration has considered sending federal police undercover on social-networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter." Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook, told McCullagh that "Facebook regularly works with law enforcement agencies when they are investigating criminal activity. ... We strive to respect the balance between law enforcement's need for information and the privacy rights of our users, and as a responsible company we adhere to the letter of the law." McCullagh also cited a previous article he wrote concerning MySpace and its reputation for ready cooperation with police.


Bookmark and Share

Be sure to check out johnny2k's Tea Party Gear!

1 comment:

  1. I have read about the electronic frontier foundation got its hands on documents on federal law enforcement approaches to gathering data on various social networking sites because of various illegal moves on sites. Social networking police are really a need for a all trusted social networking sites.