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3 Ways the Government Is Tracking Us Online

3 Ways the Government Is Tracking Us Online

 

The US government is keeping tabs on our online escapades. They’re doing things like:

  • Monitoring social media sites.
  • Tracking users’ comments.
  • Data mining Twitter feeds and Facebook updates for keywords.

In the age of social media, the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been reading Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networks for years, says Politico. But now the FBI and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are seeking out private tech vendors for technology which can scrape social media sites for billions of keyword hits daily. These could range from the more obvious (“cyberattack”) to the seemingly innocuous (“snow”).

Moreover, DARPA, which oversees technology and R & D for the military, sent out a call last summer for “innovative research proposals” to better enable it to use social media for military operations. DARPA documents say that the intent is to create a system to ďdetect, classify, measure, track and influence events in social media at data scale and in a timely fashion,” according to DARPA documents.

Both the FBI and DARPA say that “personally identifiable information wonít be collected and stored.” But the DHS program is another matter:

.. [the program] allows for the culling of such data in cases involving a narrow niche of folks, ranging from senior U.S. and foreign government officials to terrorists and drug cartel leaders, according to a DHS privacy compliance review from November. Personal information gathered on anyone else is supposed to be ďredacted immediately before further use and sharing,Ē the privacy document says.

DHS has told Politico that it is seeking to mine only data that is available in public online fora. But two privacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have already filed lawsuits against DHS regarding “the release of documents about policies and contracts governing its social media monitoring program.” The EPIC is also demanding that DHS suspend its monitoring program.

EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch describes the awkward dance the government has found it in. “The government is still trying to navigate social media, and theyíve definitely overstepped their boundaries on certain issues,” she comments.

It’s no secret that†Chinese Communist authorities monitor microblogging sites and keep track of certain keywords †and of who is using them. Twitter itself being banned in China, users rely on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo. On March 31, both services announced a 72-hour suspension of the comment function. The suspension happened after Chinese microbloggers had spread†rumors about an overnight coup in Beijing.

Someone is keeping track of what’s said on any online forum in China. But is the U.S. government starting to look — to be — a bit too much like China as it seeks to keep an†eye on whatever is said on Twitter and other social media sites?

Do you know who’s reading your Twitter feed now?

 

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51 comments

+ add your own
6:44PM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

surprised? I think not

2:05AM PDT on May 20, 2012

Accepting, arguendo, LD's definitions, if "the provider ... take(s) ...
steps to attain ... (a) degree of privacy," that creates a legally
cognizable, reasonable expectation of privacy which a non-fascistic
government should respect.

But who can have a reasonable expectation of non-fascistic
government today? How can a government that expends such
resources in obsessively building and retaining such dossiers justify
such expectations? Whether on the web, in private e-mails, on the
telephone, in your own room or home?

10:17PM PDT on May 19, 2012

"The web" is no more an entirely public forum than the telephone or traditional mail. That kind of sweeping generalization opens the door to electronic media totalitarianism.

1:58PM PDT on May 9, 2012

Thanks for the heads up.

2:16PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

And the Sh$t hits the fan !!!!

9:06PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

HATE it...

6:42PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Uh oh!....uh.....uh....Howdy, fellas! Have good day!! :0)

9:26AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

The data gathering mechanisms are in place and largely legalized
(SCOTUS having shown some, but insufficient concern; the
Administration little if any concern) for fully realizing the Orwellian
vision of an omniscient State. All that's needed is continuing
advances in processor speeds to improve the data retrieval and
analysis end of things.

8:29AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

The "elite' (haha yeah right) are pathetic paranoid freaks who are trying to protect their coins and houses and "prestige" (hahaa another funny term) while they ignorantly monitor good honest people's communications.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR??
YOU"RE THE ONES WHO NEED TO BE WATCHED you sick bastards!!!

4:50PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

In the 1970's, the National Security Agency was recording 90% of the telephone conversations on the planet. Motherland Security, FBI, CIA, DEA, blah, blah, hundreds more. You are here to consume and to produce what you consume. The CIA was created as an adjunct agency to smooth the way for business around the globe. That's really all anything is, or is about, keeping people borrowing to create more money which need more money creation to service the original debt. If, along the way, groups have to be demonized and vilified, then that's what is done. No genius here came up with this stuff.
"We must reduce Worker's salaries and take away their right to strike." Adolph Hitler - 1933.
It's not about terrorism, except that it is - against us, by those who tell us to fear someone else.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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