EFF in the News
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation show immigration agents were instructed on how to "friend" applicants for citizenship on social networks such as Facebook in order to observe their lives and determine if their marriages are in fact valid.
Newly released documents show government agencies have engaged in domestic spying through popular social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a 2008 memo from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service instructed agents to befriend petitioners on social networking sites to monitor them for unlawful activity.
You could be friends with government agents on Facebook, and not even know it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has obtained documents that show two ways the government has been tracking people online to investigate citizenship petitions. Jennifer Lynch Staff Attorney for Electronic Frontier Foundation discusses the ethical issues involved if the government is creating fake profiles. She also says that the government memo opens the door to many questions.
“The time is now for Nokia to ‘be accountable’ for its role in the repression of Mr. Saharkhiz and likely thousands of others. And it must do so not just in the press room, but in the court case, dropping its cynical claims that corporations should never be held accountable for their role in human rights violations,” the EFF’s Eddan Katz writes in a statement.
As of Thursday morning, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Digg had not commented on the report, which details the official government program to spy via social networking. Other websites the government is spying on include Twitter, MySpace, Craigslist and Wikipedia, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed the FOIA request.
While much of the information on public websites is out in the open for others to view, EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch still expressed concern about the government collecting "a massive amount of data on individuals and organizations explicitly tied to a political event." "The information is certainly open to whoever comes looking for it. What's concerning, though, is that the government was scouring information on people any reason. From those slides, it looks like DHS was concerned about protecting peoples' privacy - which is great to hear. What we were worried about was how long DHS was holding onto the information after the election and why they were monitoring sites where they didn't think there was a threat. Was it based on race or ethnicity or assumptions about a site? "
A 2008 memo obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) confirms it: big brother is watching.
Federal agents are infiltrating social networks via sneaky friend requests and monitoring them via a special command center, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Who cares? Well, prospective citizens, for one.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has used the Freedom of Information Act to get its hands on a Department of Homeland Security internal document describing how it planned to ramp up social media monitoring in advance of Obama’s inauguration last year. The Department created a Social Networking Monitoring Center to search for “items of interest” on social media sites in the week prior to and the day of the inauguration event, looking for “hits,” tagging and filing them, and searching for trends that might reveal security threats.
"If you think about it, you'll realize that your location history indicates where you sleep, where you work, who you sleep with, who you go to business meetings with, where you go to church, what political meetings you attend, what nightclubs you go to," said Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"These facts about people are astonishingly sensitive. And we don't want to build a permanent tracking system for those by accident," he said.