Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently posted a note to his over 26 million followers expressing his “confusion” and “frustration” with President Obama’s overreaching surveillance techniques on the internet. Zuckerberg claims that “trust in the internet” is increasingly important and that in order to keep it strong, it must be kept secure.
In light of recent accusations that the National Security Administration (NSA) has infiltrated Facebook with automated malware to monitor Facebook user activity, it is no wonder that Zuckerberg is frustrated. Zuckerman has taken measures to prevent the malware from accessing Facebook user information and claims he had no knowledge of the infection despite that it might have been in action since approximately 2010. Zuckerman further warns that other social media sites are likely still vulnerable to the malware, codenamed TURBINE.
Some may find Zuckerberg’s statement somewhat hypocritical considering the invasive tracking techniques Facebook employs to gather personal information to maximize their advertising campaigns. While Facebook’s data mining is remarkably targeted and invasive, Facebook users choose to have their free accounts knowing they are being used as marketing tools. On the other hand, no one chooses to be spied on by the National Security Administration (NSA) and Americans have the expectation of a reasonable right to privacy as afforded by the Fourth Amendment.
In his post, Zuckerberg mentions the effort of Facebook to keep the internet a safer environment by using secure “protocols” to protect traffic, Facebook’s multiple authentication procedures to keep individual identities secure and the encryption of communications. He calls out Obama saying that the U.S. government should not be a threat to the internet. Instead, it should be a “champion” for a technology that brings people together in a “shared space” that allows for greater learning, a greater “voice” and what should be greater security.
Zuckerberg believes that Facebook provides an environment where people are “stronger and safer” together. In that Facebook is a massively effective communication tool that millions across the world take advantage of, Zuckerman may be right. On the other hand, many with Facebook accounts commonly make the mistake of posting very private information on their pages not understanding how vulnerable it is to public consumption.
This over “sharing” may actually lessen the security and safety of Facebook users. Again, however, this is a choice made by those taking advantage of a “free” social media tool and it is their responsibility to be aware of privacy protocols and act accordingly.
Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame does not wholly approve of Zuckerberg’s Facebook and takes issue with the information the site routinely gathers. In a recent appearance via Skype from the interactive conference, South by Southwest (SXSW), Assange made several statements about widespread surveillance and the use of data mining. The WikiLeak founder said that in the very near future the ability to surveil everyone on the planet would be a reality. He also specifically targeted Facebook and accused the social media conglomerate of “unprecedented theft” of wealth as a powerful entity taking from the “majority of the population.” By wealth, Assange meant a wealth of information, which is exactly what Facebook mines from the personal accounts of its users. Assange further stated that, “information is power” and suggested that this is actually what Facebook is accumulating.
Zuckerberg posted in his Facebook note that he has personally called President Obama, whom he has had close contact with in the past, and let him know that he is frustrated and confused by the administration’s surveillance behavior and that he believes it will “damage the future” of internet security. He reminded Obama that at least at Facebook, the protocols are in place to protect people against criminals and that there is an expectation that such protection should not have to include the U.S. government.
However, Zuckerberg does not expect that the NSA will reform its surveillance tactics anytime soon. Thus, the Facebook CEO may continue to be frustrated and confused as are many Americans who are concerned about their Fourth Amendment rights being violated by an overreaching government.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
Follow Alana on Twitter