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The Social "Spy" Network

You undoubtedly know Julian Assange -- the overseer of WikiLeaks and one of the most important information providers of our time. Assange appears in the news May 2, 2011 making a statement that might appear strange to some, sobering to others and quite familiar to those (like us at MF/PL) who have been saying it all along.

The often blunt Assange, started in on Facebook, calling it "the most appalling spying machine ever invented" in an interview with Russia Today.

"Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other and their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US Intelligence," he said. "Facebook, Google, Yahoo, all these major U.S. organizations have built-in infaces for US intelligence."


Outlandish? Paranoid? Well, check out the Facebook spokesperson's response: "the legal standards for compelling a company to turn over data are determined by the laws of the country, and we respect that standard." And what is that standard? Well, heed...

If the government tells you it needs information on someone because that person is suspected of a crime, and its reps get a warrant, you must turn over that information or go to jail. If they just tell you (without the warrant), they can later indict you for collusion or protection of a criminal. In any case, they can drag you into interrogations, hold you for 24 hours or do any of a series of fairly nefarious things to you. For...nothing.

That's because the right to privacy doesn't exist for a third party. You as an individual have a theoretical right to privacy when it comes to *your* life (which is almost never respected anymore anyway) but a person or group holding your information doesn't.

So they have to be ready to go to jail if they don't turn things over. Which is why we at MF/PL always say we will protect users' data and go to jail if necessary to protect it. We aren't welcoming that but if it has to happen we'll do it. And we can't totally protect information because they can still get it from us but they have to work harder and longer and hopefully that would be a deterrent.

But we're a political organization; these social networking guys are capitalist mongrels.

They turn over your information to the government and publicly admit they do and warn you that they will. There's no secret there.

So yes, there are reasons to use these tools but, as we've said all along, be mindful what you're giving up in exchange. In my opinion, using these "social networking" tools to organize movement activities is a huge political mistake.

What's most interesting to me is the way people point to, for example, the use of Twitter during the Egypt Spring Uprisings. True enough, it was important. It's also not the United States and, obviously, our government has a huge interest in keeping abreast of the developments so it lets Twitter flow.

But what it does with that information is very different from what it could do with your information. And that's the scenario you should be paying attention to.