Facebook Spying Explained

Besides being a child of In-Q-Tel, a CIA  front company, Facebook is also financed in part by Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Hong Kong magnate Sir Ka-shing Li and venture capitalist Peter Andreas Thiel.

by Byron Acohido
USAToday
November 17, 2011

In recent weeks, Facebook has been wrangling with the Federal Trade Commission over whether the social media website is violating users’ privacy by making public too much of their personal information.

This is how Facebook spies on you. Click to enlarge. Image: USAToday

Far more quietly, another debate is brewing over a different side of online privacy: what Facebook is learning about those who visit its website.

Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason.

To do this, the company relies on tracking cookie technologies similar to the controversial systems used by Google, Adobe, Microsoft, Yahoo and others in the online advertising industry, says Arturo Bejar, Facebook’s engineering director.

Facebook’s efforts to track the browsing habits of visitors to its site have made the company a player in the “Do Not Track” debate, which focuses on whether consumers should be able to prevent websites from tracking the consumers’ online activity.

If they happen to miss you the first way, they have a back up plan. Click to enlarge.

For online business and social media sites, such information can be particularly valuable in helping them tailor online ads to specific visitors. But privacy advocates worry about how else the information might be used, and whether it might be sold to third parties.

New guidelines for online privacy are being hashed out in Congress and by the World Wide Web Consortium, which sets standards for the Internet.

If privacy advocates get their way, consumers soon could be empowered to stop or limit tech companies and ad networks from tracking them wherever they go online. But the online advertising industry has dug in its heels, trying to retain the current self-regulatory system.

Online tracking involves technologies that tech companies and ad networks have used for more than a decade to help advertisers deliver more relevant ads to each viewer. Until now, Facebook, which makes most of its profits from advertising, has been ambiguous in public statements about the extent to which it collects tracking data.

And the third weapon used for spying by a social network is this one. Click to enlarge.

It contends that it does not belong in the same camp as Google, Microsoft and the rest of the online ad industry’s major players. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made this point to interviewer Charlie Rose on national TV last week.

For the past several weeks, Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials have sought to distinguish how Facebook and others use tracking data. Facebook uses such data only to boost security and improve how “Like” buttons and similar Facebook plug-ins perform, Bejar told USA TODAY. Plug-ins are the ubiquitous web applications that enable you to tap into Facebook services from millions of third-party web pages.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes says the company has “no plans to change how we use this data.” He also says the company’s intentions “stand in stark contrast to the many ad networks and data brokers that deliberately and, in many cases, surreptitiously track people to create profiles of their behavior, sell that content to the highest bidder, or use that content to target ads.”

Conflicting pressures

Rather than appease its critics, Facebook’s public explanations of how it tracks and how it uses tracking data have touched off a barrage of questions from technologists, privacy advocates, regulators and lawmakers around the world.

“Facebook could be tracking users without knowledge or permission, which could be an unfair or deceptive business practice,” says Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsor with Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, of a bill aimed at limiting online tracking of children.

The company “should be covered by strong privacy safeguards,” Markey says. “The massive trove of personal information that Facebook accumulates about its users can have a significant impact on them — now and into the future.”

Noting that “Facebook is the most popular social media website in the world,” Barton adds, “All websites should respect users’ privacy.”

After Zuckerberg appeared on the Charlie Rose TV show last week, Markey and Barton sent a letter to the 27-year-old CEO asking him to explain why Facebook recently applied for a U.S. patent for technology that includes a method to correlate tracking data with advertisements. They gave Zuckerberg a Dec. 1 deadline to reply.

“We patent lots of things, and future products should not be inferred from our patent application,” Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt says.

Facebook is under intense, conflicting pressures.

It must prove to its global financial backers that it is worthy of the hundreds of millions of dollars they’ve poured into the company, financial and tech industry analysts say. Those investors include Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, the Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, Hong Kong financier Sir Ka-shing Li and venture capitalist Peter Andreas Thiel.

You may also want to read:

Invasive Cyber Technologies and Internet Privacy

Facebook & Social Media: A Convenient Cover For Spying

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Facebook Caught Building ‘Shadow Profiles’ of Non-Members

FoxNews.com
October 21, 2011

Eight hundred million users are not enough. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, is now building profiles of non-users who haven’t even signed up, an international privacy watchdog charges.

The sensational claim is made in a complaint filed in August by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner. It alleges that users are encouraged to hand over the personal data of other people — including names, phone numbers, email addresses and more — which Facebook is using to create “extensive profiles” of non-users.

Facebook categorically denies the allegation, but experts tell FoxNews.com that it could well be true.

“There can be little doubt that Facebook collects from its current users information about individuals who are not currently Facebook users, and collects from its current users information about other Facebook users,” said Kelly Kubasta, who heads the Dallas law firm Klemchuk Kubasta’s social media division.

Ciara O’Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, told FoxNews.com that its audit of Facebook Ireland’s privacy policies was part of a “statutory investigation” that the office anticipates will lead to immediate changes.

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner will be commencing a comprehensive audit of Facebook Ireland before the end of the month,” O’Sullivan said.

But Facebook denies that it is creating “shadow profiles” and tracking users and non-users alike.

“Facebook does not track users across the web,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “We use cookies on social plug-ins to personalize content, to help maintain and improve what we do, or for safety and security.”

Furthermore, Facebook says that no information it receives from users is employed to target ads, and that it does not resell information from users to third parties. The company prominently posts its established privacy policy on its Web site.

But that isn’t what they’re thinking in Ireland. The complaint makes clear that it believes Facebook is doing just that — and enumerates several scenarios that would give any social-networker shivers.

“Facebook Ireland is gathering excessive amounts of information about data subjects without notice or consent by the data subject,” the complaint states, adding that in many cases the information “might be embarrassing or intimidating for the data subject. This information might also constitute sensitive data such as political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation and so forth.”

Facebook & Social Media: A Convenient Cover For Spying

By Ralph Forbes
October 6, 2011

Longtime AMERICAN FREE PRESS readers may recall that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has some creepy tentacles: the Information Awareness Office (IAO); TIA (Total Information Awareness, renamed Terrorism Information Program); and TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System). By 2003, an irate American people forced the government to drop these spooky command-and-control police state operations—or did they?

The “vampire coven” was seemingly dead and buried—but was the stake actually driven through its evil heart?

In 2002, Divya Narendra had an idea for a social network site. By the fall of 2003, she and twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss were looking for a web developer who could bring their idea to life. On Nov. 30, 2003 they hired Mark Zuckerberg to finish their program’s codes. Little did they know what a monster Zuckerberg would hatch.

Zuckerberg bragged about taking their money so he could make his own social networking site. He boasted that his creation, which became the popular “Facebook” online social network, would naturally succeed. While pretending to work on college projects, he was sabotaging his clients by stalling. He claimed he was backed by the “Brazilian Mafia”—but AFP’s revelations will show, it is dangerous to believe anything Zuckerberg says.

Notably, The Social Network, is a new movie based on Zuckerberg and the pre-CIA founding years of Facebook, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. Check upcoming issues of AFP to see how closely the script depicts the shocking facts.

But as bad as the beginning of Facebook is, the parallels between the CIA’s backing of Google’s dream of becoming “the mind of God,” and the CIA’s funding of Facebook’s goal of knowing everything about everybody are spookier.

Congress stopped the IAO from gathering as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized nexus for easy spying by the United States government, including internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and all other available data. The government’s plan was to emulate Communist East Germany’s STASI police state by getting mailmen, boy scouts, teachers, students and others to spy on everyone else. Children would be urged to spy on parents.

Facebook, however, does what no dictator ever dreamed of—it has a half billion people willingly doing a form of spy work on all their friends, family, neighbors, etc.—while enthusiastically revealing information on themselves.

The huge database on these half a billion members (and non-members who are written about) is too much power for any private entity—but what if it is part of, or is accessed by, the military-industrial-national security-police state complex?

We all know that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune,” therefore, whoever controls the purse strings controls the whole project. When it had less than a million or so participants, Facebook demonstrated the potential to do even more than IAO, TIA and TIPS combined. Facebook really exploded after its second round of funding—$12.7 million from the venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager, James Breyer, was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital front established by the CIA in 1999. In-Q-Tel is the same outfit that funds Google and other technological powerhouses. One of its specialties is “data mining technologies.”

Dr. Anita Jones, who joined the firm, also came from Gilman Louie and served on In-Q-Tel’s board. She had been director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense. This link goes full circle because she was also an adviser to the secretary of defense, overseeing DARPA, which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

Furthermore, the CIA uses a Facebook group to recruit staff for its National Clandestine Service.

Creating Reality: The Western Media Promotes a Mistaken View of the World

Global Research

I am not good at flying kites. But during a recent visit to the Olympic Village of Beijing, I felt compelled to do so. Despite the cold mediaand late hour, there were many kite runners around me. A salesman insisted that I try my hand before committing to any purchase, and I did. Once I finalized the purchase of ten small kites, I shared the one I was already flying one with a most adorable boy. He thanked me, then asked me not to play with his hair.

Earlier, at Tiananmen Square, I had watched throngs of people giddily roam the vast expanse, snapping endless photos in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, in the Imperial City and around every monument in the Square.

A formation of about 10 soldiers was suddenly in tatters when I asked if I could take a photo with them. Their excitement seemed to surpass mine.

None of this should by any means take away from the seriousness of the violent crackdown at the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. That date should be remembered and lessons must be gleaned. But why the reductionism? When one thinks of Tiananmen, why does one only conjure visions of hordes of protesters and gangs of soldiers? The bloody scene is used time and again to single out China as an anti-democratic regime, juxtaposed conveniently against Western ‘democratic values’.

One hardly ever reads positive news from China, or any other ‘non-Western’ countries – unless an agenda exists for promoting selective positive news from those countries, for example, a supposedly successful election in Afghanistan conducted under the auspices of Western armies.

In Thailand last week I saw no signs of the Red Shirts, or the Yellow Shirts either. I did, however, see some shirtless Thais. Considering the heat and humidity, this was not surprising. The point remains that aside from a standoff at a major Bangkok shopping center, the rest of the metropolis seemed to operate as normal. A Thai man struggled to communicate his political views on to me in English. I had found him watching a video on some social network website. The video featured a dog and a cat, the cat representing the Red Shirts, and a dog, the current government. They barked, meowed and hissed, but they didn’t physically engage. The man laughingly commented, “This is how things are in Thailand.” Then, in a more somber tone, “It’s all about power and control; no one cares about Thais who cannot afford a shirt – red, yellow, or otherwise.”

True, but it also seems that Western media cares little about these countries, outside of a very narrow context. The story of China is only worthy if it involves government restriction (e.g. of Google), or economics, i.e. how China’s economic growth will affect Western economic recovery. Even if the story is related to art rather than politics, somehow it finds its way back to the same old theme, for example, the government censoring struggling artists.

Once the Red Shirts and the government sort out their problems, Thailand will certainly disappear off our radar. It would take an economic crisis, rigged elections, or even a tsunami to bring it back as a story worth telling. In the meantime, the country will return to its convenient role for the West – a cheap destination for adventure-seeking travellers with some money to spare, a topic in blogs advising ways to get more money for your buck, or baht, and clever ways to dodge Thai con artists.

China and Thailand are the norm, not the exception. In a recent discussion with a Reuters editor, I complained about the fact that every story on Malaysia had some kind of negative undertone. Example include: Muslim, Christian clashes over the use of the word “Allah”; the trial of Anwar Ibrahim; the ugly politicking. The news makes it easy to quickly imagine Malaysia as the most dysfunctional and unfortunate society on earth.

This was not the impression I got during my last visit to Malaysia. It is, in many respects, a thriving society. It has its internal politics, like anywhere else, but essentially Christians and Muslims seem to be getting along just fine, as they have been for many years.

Media channels – especially those dispatching their news from various Western capitals – focus not simply on sensational news, but they also intentionally sensationalize news, and purposely relay the news so as to be understood within Western contexts. Thus ‘democracy’, ‘elections’, ‘government restrictions’ and ‘terrorism’ are the usual buzzwords.

Sadly, the south is also stereotyped in the south itself. Newspapers in non-Western societies depend on coverage provided by Western news agencies for their international news. An Indonesian friend recently commended on my ‘bravery’ for going to South Africa. For him, South Africa is just ‘Africa,’ where ‘primitive’ people, along with lions and other wild animals prey on innocent white tourists. Thank you, Hollywood, for perfecting the art of stereotype.

Similarly, some people show utter disbelief when they discover that Iran is one of the world’s busiest travel destinations – not necessarily for Americans or Israelis, but for people across the globe. Yes, Iran has much to offer in terms of culture, history, scenery and societal achievements. There is far more to the country than clashing soldiers and youth, or fiery statements pertaining to nuclear weapons, Israel and the Holocaust.

A few years ago, in Stockholm, I asked a group of officials to tell me the images that popped in their heads when they thought of Palestinians. I asked them to be honest, assuring them that nothing they said would offend me. But when I heard back from them, I was indeed very offended. The images were unfailingly gory. Even the ‘positive’ images amongst them were disturbing and stereotypical.

The western media will continue to reduce non-Westerners, for they have a vested interest in doing so, and it has become habitual. A first step in overcoming this would be to empower our own local and regional media, and to create rapports amongst them.  We can only challenge the abhorrent narratives about us when we start to present our own truth and experience, and support others to do the same.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and Chief Editor of the Brunei Times. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.