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 Tuesday, November 13 2007 @ 12:54 PM PST

Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community

   
Spying on YouTheFacebook.com, created in February of 2004 by 21 year old Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, is a student social network now active at more than 800 campuses, with more than 2.8 million registered users. [1] Among its features, TheFacebook allows a user to upload a picture
of themselves and can include information about their favorite music, books, movies, their address, phone number, e-mail, clubs, jobs, educational history, and even political affiliations.

Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community

A few days ago I stumbled across a couple articles mentioning
TheFacebook, and a little start-up capital they happened to get in
the sum of $13 million. The number intrigued me, so I did a little
more research, a little more stumbling, and found something that even
I still have a hard time accepting. So, here's what I came up with:

(p.s. - I'm hoping that someone from EFF or people concerned with
privacy rights will take notice. This really worries me and a lot of
my friends.)

TheFacebook.com, created in February of 2004 by 21 year old Harvard
student Mark Zuckerberg, is a student social network now active at
more than 800 campuses, with more than 2.8 million registered users.
[1] Among its features, TheFacebook allows a user to upload a picture
of themselves and can include information about their favorite music,
books, movies, their address, phone number, e-mail, clubs, jobs,
educational history, and even political affiliations. Facebook is
extremely popular, attracting on average 80 percent of a school's
undergraduate population. However, there are some questions raised
regarding privacy concerns on the site, and when some digging is done
to find out who is really behind the site's management, there are
more questions than answers.

The first venture capital money to come into TheFacebook, $500,000
worth, came from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, founder and former
CEO of Paypal. [1] A Stanford graduate and former columnist for the
Wall Street Journal, Thiel is author of the book "The Diversity
Myth," [2] which received praises from notable neo-conservatives such
as William Kristol. [3] In fact, Thiel is on the board of the radical
conservative group VanguardPAC. [4]

Further funding came in the form of $12.7 million from venture
capital firm Accel Partners. Accel's manager James Breyer was former
chair of the National Venture Capital Association (NVAC). [1] Breyer
served on NVAC's board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, [5] a
venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency
in 1999. [6] This firm works in various aspects of information
technology and intelligence, including most notably "nurturing data
mining technologies."

Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research
and development firm known for spearheading the ARPANET, or what we
know today as the Internet. [7] In October of 2004, Dr. Anita Jones
climbed on board, becoming a part of a firm packed with leaders from
other areas of Silicon Valley's venture capital community, including
none other than Gilman Louie. But what is most interesting is Dr.
Jones' experience prior to joining BBN.

Jones herself served on the Board of Directors for In-Q-Tel, and was
previously the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the
U.S. Department of Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as
an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

While the nearly $13 million that came from Accel to fund The
Facebook certainly looks suspicious and unfortunately disturbing
after reviewing all of this information, the only problem on the
surface seems to be the appearance of some incestuous relationships
between the Pentagon, the CIA, and these venture capital firms. But
this goes further than just the initial appearances. DARPA shot to
national fame in 2002 when John Markoff of the New York Times
announced the existence of the "Information Awareness Office" (IAO).
[8] According to Wikipedia, "the IAO has the stated mission to gather
as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized
location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including
(though not limited to) Internet activity, credit card purchase
histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records,
educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax
returns, and any other available data." [9] Protests came from civil
libertarians on both the right and the left who saw the IAO as a new
Orwellian arm of the United States government. After Congress
investigated DARPA's project, funding was cut off and IAO was
essentially dead in the water.

The Information Awareness Office seems to have survived some of its
original purposes in a mutated form, found in today's Facebook. In
fact, one of IAO's original example technologies included "human
network analysis and behavior model building engines," [10] a
surprising echo of the social networking mapping that Facebook does
using SVG visualizations. [11] Add that to the information that
Facebook collects and compare it to the startlingly similar goal of
the IAO. It appears at first glance that DoD, along with the CIA, has
managed to circumvent its previous Congressionally established
limitations and find corporate sponsorship for its programs, under
the thin veil of a useful social network for unwitting college students.

And those college students continue to log on to TheFacebook,
completely unaware of the massive affronts to their privacy. The so-
called "Privacy Policy" [12] of Facebook includes a statement saying
that they "may share your information with third parties, including
responsible companies with which we have a relationship." It goes on
to say that, "We may be required to disclose customer information
pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or in
compliance with applicable laws. Additionally, we may share account
or other information when we believe it is necessary to comply with
law or to protect our interests or property. This may include sharing
information with other companies, lawyers, agents or government
agencies."

Some of the aspects of the privacy policy are downright creepy and
confusing. This particular gem is especially disturbing: "Thefacebook
also collects information about you from other sources, such as
newspapers and instant messaging services. This information is
gathered regardless of your use of the Web Site." And there's no
telling when the privacy policy may change. As of when this was
written (July 1, 2005), the policy was effective as of June 28, 2005.

Who knows where the information they collect about these three
million college students, alumni, and professors is going, or what
they intend to do with it. The fact that these companies and agencies
are all so closely related, and that The Facebook has almost no
organizational transparency are all cause for concern. Hopefully we
can soon uncover the truth.

[1] "Accel Partners Invests In Thefacebook.com" [Accel.com]
Link

[2] Peter Thiel's book, "The Diversity Myth" [Amazon.com]
Link

[3] Kristol's commentary, as well as others, can be found here:
Link

[4] VanguardPAC Board of Advisors [TheVanguard.org]
Link

[5] In-Q-Tel - About Us [In-Q-Tel.org]
Link

[6] "Jim Breyer of Accel Partners Elected Chairman of National
Venture Capital Association" [NVCA.org]
Link (PDF)

[7] General Catalyst Partners :: News - "BBN Technologies Appoints
Dr. Anita K. Jones to Board of Directors"
(This includes information about BBN's involvement in ARPANET, as
well as Jones' past with DARPA and In-Q-Tel)
Link

[8] New York Times - "Many Tools Of Big Brother Are Now Up And
Running" by John Markoff and John Schwartz, December 23, 2002, Late
Edition - Final, Section C, Page 1, Column 2 [NYTimes.com]
Link

[9] Information Awareness Office [Wikipedia.org]
Link

[10] The Internet Archive's archived page of DARPA's Information
Awareness Office
Link

[11] Thefacebook.com FAQ - Visualizations [Thefacebook.com]
Link

[12] Thefacebook.com Privacy Policy [Thefacebook.com]
Link

http://www.commongroundcommonsense.org/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t34949.html
 

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Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community
Authored by: Ghost on Friday, May 04 2007 @ 04:29 PM PDT
This is pretty true. When organizing a protest last year all my info and a pic (an outragously funny one at that) was posted on a wall in the local police station. All info was gotten off of facebook. Be careful.
Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community
Authored by: erisian on Saturday, May 05 2007 @ 08:50 AM PDT
This just high-lights the needs for alternatives to this corporate controlled avenues for social networking.
Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community
Authored by: Admin on Saturday, May 05 2007 @ 09:55 AM PDT
Infoshop will be discussing changes to our site to allow for more social networking.

But I do think that people are lazy when it comes to using Facebook and Myspace. Anarchists and radicals have spent the last 20 years building a radical infrastructure on the Internet for radical politics, communication, organizing and networking. I can understand the appeal of setting up your own Myspace profile so you can communicate with friends, but I just don't get the lazy anarchists who spend their time on Myspace forums when anarchist forums and email lists arleady exist, in the hundreds.

Frankly, I've concluded that corporate networking sites such as Myspace are hurting anarchist websites such as Infoshop. What I also don't get are anarchists who worry about government snooping here, but then they go ahead and use Myspace and Facebook which have no reservations about sharing data with the government and authorities.

If you don't support anarchist and radical alternatives to the corporate media, our media will disappear faster than you think.

Chuck
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