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 “detect, 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 won’t 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 “redacted immediately before further use and sharing,” 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 they’ve 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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Photo by Poster Boy NYC


Livetecs L
onlinetimesheet L4 months ago

The way you explained each point in detail is excellent, Thanks for sharing

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

surprised? I think not

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

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?

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

"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.

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

Thanks for the heads up.

Ken W.
Ken W5 years ago

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

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

HATE it...

Joy Kendall
Past Member 5 years ago

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

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

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.

Colum N.
Colum N5 years ago

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.