Facebook has significantly changed the way life is lived on planet earth. The social media kingpin has probably had as large an effect on modern society as the cell phone. It is hard to even remember the days prior to the cell phone, back when you memorized peoples phone numbers. Back when you actually had to make an appointment with someone that you intended to keep. If you wanted to bail on a meeting you couldn’t just fire off some half-hearted “txt” informing your counterpart of whatever excuse seemed to pop into your mind at the moment. Prior to the cell phone you had to actually think about and plan out your day, meticulously detailing contingency plans to deal with potential surprises. Nowadays you can just make a few calls, fire off some emails, and text updates or changes in response to a change in plans without even putting down your morning coffee. It’s safe to say that Facebook has had just about as big an effect on society. In fact, Facebook has even gone as far as to revolutionize the surveillance and spy game. So much it would seem, that if Facebook-style social networking continues to trend upward, it will be turning super-spy icon’s like James Bond into desk-riding, internet surfing, social networking sleuths resembling Jabba the Hutt.
Remember the days when myspace was interesting? Back before it quit being “your-space” and it was prostituted out to the highest bidder to plaster every spare inch on the page with an annoying advertisement. The volume of on-page advertising then blew up to apocalyptic proportions after the sale of the Facebook predecessor, as the goal quickly turned to maximizing profits at the expense of what little space you had left, turning the name “myspace” into a complete irony. Facebook however hasn’t succumbed to the temptation to pimp out it’s profiles to the advertisers in the same manner as myspace. Have you ever wondered how exactly it is then, that this social networking company which seems to keep noticeable advertising to a minimum, manages to command a market value in excess of $100 Billion? How in the world wide web are they worth that much dough? If they aren’t prostituting your page out to advertisers, what could they possibly posses that is worth that much cash? Well, the answer is you, and every little shred of data about you (most of which you willingly provide in likes, updates, tags, comments, etc…). Zuckerberg himself summed it up nicely a few years ago in 3 nice words, “privacy is dead.”
But who could possibly want all of that random data anyway? Well, that kind of information would be pretty useful to have if you were running a business and attempting to find your target market, or track the tastes of a specific interest group. And it might even seem like a good idea to the consumer, who naively might interpret this as an opportunity for companies to finally know exactly what they want and personalize their products for the consumers tastes, increasing the consumer experience. Facebook can certainly provide such amenities. But who else might be after such data? How about agencies such as the NSA and the CIA for starters? I mean think about it, instead of having to rely heavily on the street smarts, athletic ability, and charm of the James Bond type super-spy, they would be able to replace many such characters with just a few Jabba the Hutt type desk jockeys willing to surf and snoop through Facebook all day.
The Mediterranean Council for Intelligence Studies (MCIS) released a study in their 2012 yearbook detailing how social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others are being viewed differently by intelligence agencies these days. In the study lies a report authored by Joseph Fitsanakus, coordinator for the Intelligence and Security Studies program, King College, and his co-author Micah-Sage Bolden. The report is titled “SOCIAL NETWORKING AS A PARADIGM SHIFT IN TACTICAL INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION.” The report details how social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others are being used by intelligence agencies to collect, you guessed it, all the “important” data they need. Within the report are statements such as, “analysts appear to be gradually warming up to relatively secure and const-effective methods of utilizing the ‘gold mine of intelligence that comes out of’ social networking.”
Is it really that surprising though? I mean consider what a CIA agent might have had to do in the past to build up a file (a.k.a. “profile”) on someone in the past. They had to tail people, dig through trash, tap phones, physically surveil, and maybe even use interrogation. But now you happily build up this valuable “profile” for them, then practically gift-wrap it and drop it at their doorstep. I mean, what did you think made it so that a company like Facebook was suddenly worth over $100 Billion? A company that was not overtly whoring around ad-space for companies chomping at the bit to flash some images in front of your face. Well, maybe they’re just opening up the backdoor to all the info available about you so that alphabet gang intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA can learn about everything that makes you tick, along with where you are, and where you’re likely to turn up. All this so that they can “serve and protect” you no doubt. Well, one unfortunate side-effect of this huge info-grab under benign sounding names like “gathering ‘meta-data,'” is that the suave spy image should be much harder to sell. It seems like new-age spy-craft, utilizing social networking sites like Facebook, will result in the destruction of the super-suave James Bond style man of mystery, and replace it with a more effective but much less cool Jabba the Hutt desk jockey persona. It appears that’s a price they’re willing to pay to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites in an effort to track all available data on every living soul.
By Daniel Worku