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.

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Internet Dictatorship Begins in Singapore

A “new” system that records every move, stores all passwords and homogenizes software and that will control the net from 3 major hubs.

by John Markoff
NYTimes
June 25, 2011

A small group of Internet security specialists gathered in Singapore this week to start up a global system to make e-mail and e-commerce more secure, end the proliferation of passwords and raise the bar significantly for Internet scam artists, spies and troublemakers.

“It won’t matter where you are in the world or who you are in the world, you’re going to be able to authenticate everyone and everything,” said Dan Kaminsky, an independent network security researcher who is one of the engineers involved in the project.

The Singapore event included an elaborate technical ceremony to create and then securely store numerical keys that will be kept in three hardened data centers there, in Zurich and in San Jose, Calif. The keys and data centers are working parts of a technology known as Secure DNS, or DNSSEC. DNS refers to the Domain Name System, which is a directory that connects names to numerical Internet addresses. Preliminary work on the security system had been going on for more than a year, but this was the first time the system went into operation, even though it is not quite complete.

The three centers are fortresses made up of five layers of physical, electronic and cryptographic security, making it virtually impossible to tamper with the system. Four layers are active now. The fifth, a physical barrier, is being built inside the data center.

The technology is viewed by many computer security specialists as a ray of hope amid the recent cascade of data thefts, attacks, disruptions and scandals, including break-ins at Citibank, Sony, Lockheed Martin, RSA Security and elsewhere. It allows users to communicate via the Internet with high confidence that the identity of the person or organization they are communicating with is not being spoofed or forged.

Internet engineers like Mr. Kaminsky want to counteract three major deficiencies in today’s Internet. There is no mechanism for ensuring trust, the quality of software is uneven, and it is difficult to track down bad actors.

One reason for these flaws is that from the 1960s through the 1980s the engineers who designed the network’s underlying technology were concerned about reliable, rather than secure, communications. That is starting to change with the introduction of Secure DNS by governments and other organizations.

The event in Singapore capped a process that began more than a year ago and is expected to be complete after 300 so-called top-level domains have been digitally signed, around the end of the year. Before the Singapore event, 70 countries had adopted the technology, and 14 more were added as part of the event. While large countries are generally doing the technical work to include their own domains in the system, the consortium of Internet security specialists is helping smaller countries and organizations with the process.

The United States government was initially divided over the technology. The Department of Homeland Security included the .gov domain early in 2009, while the Department of Commerce initially resisted including the .us domain because some large Internet corporations opposed the deployment of the technology, which is incompatible with some older security protocols.

Internet security specialists said the new security protocol would initially affect Web traffic and e-mail. Most users should be mostly protected by the end of the year, but the effectiveness for a user depends on the participation of the government, Internet providers and organizations and businesses visited online. Eventually the system is expected to have a broad effect on all kinds of communications, including voice calls that travel over the Internet, known as voice-over-Internet protocol.

“In the very long term it will be voice-over-I.P. that will benefit the most,” said Bill Woodcock, research director at the Packet Clearing House, a group based in Berkeley, Calif., that is assisting Icann, the Internet governance organization, in deploying Secure DNS.

Secure DNS makes it possible to make phone calls over the Internet secure from eavesdropping and other kinds of snooping, he said.

Security specialists are hopeful that the new Secure DNS system will enable a global authentication scheme that will be more impenetrable and less expensive than an earlier system of commercial digital certificates that proved vulnerable in a series of prominent compromises.

The first notable case of a compromise of the digital certificates — electronic documents that establish a user’s credentials in business or other transactions on the Web — occurred a decade ago when VeriSign, a prominent vendor of the certificates, mistakenly issued two of them to a person who falsely claimed to represent Microsoft.

Last year, the authors of the Stuxnet computer worm that was used to attack the Iranian uranium processing facility at Natanz were able to steal authentic digital certificates from Taiwanese technology companies. The certificates were used to help the worm evade digital defenses intended to block malware.

In March, Comodo, a firm that markets digital certificates, said it had been attacked by a hacker based in Iran who was trying to use the stolen documents to masquerade as companies like Google, Microsoft, Skype and Yahoo.

“At some point the trust gets diluted, and it’s just not as good as it used to be,” said Rick Lamb, the manager of Icann’s Secure DNS program.

The deployment of Secure DNS will significantly lower the cost of adding a layer of security, making it more likely that services built on the technology will be widely available, according to computer network security specialists. It will also potentially serve as a foundation technology for an ambitious United States government effort begun this spring to create a system to ensure “trusted identities” in cyberspace.

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.