Is Facebook really 'the most appalling spying machine'?

WikiLeaks Julian Assange has accused Facebook (and others) of offering back-door access to US spy agencies. The truth is just a bit less dramatic. UPDATE: Facebook responds.

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If law enforcement creates a fake Facebook account or one that violates the terms – say, to go undercover and befriend a suspected bad guy --  Facebook will nuke that one as well. (Take that, you wannabe Donny Brasco.)

Does that make Facebook a treasure trove for potential investigators? Absolutely. Facebook data has played a part in several well-publicized arrests; at this point I’m sure it’s standard operating procedure to look at the Facebook (and other online accounts) of anyone who wanders into the cross hairs of Johnny Law. Just like your cell phone.

If any of this is a surprise to you, maybe you should be paying closer attention (or watching more TV shows about police forensics). Does that make Facebook the most appalling spy machine ever? Only if you’re a publicity seeking paranoid.

Update: Facebook spokeshuman Andrew Noyes responded with the following statement:

We don't respond to pressure, we respond to compulsory legal process. There has never been a time we have been pressured to turn over data. We fight every time we believe the legal process is insufficient. The legal standards for compelling a company to turn over data are determined by the laws of the country, and we respect that standard.

So how many legal requests did Facebook receive last year, and how many did it fufill? Noyes responds thusly:

 

Currently, we don’t make those figures public. I can tell you that we do receive a significant volume of third party data requests and we review each request individually for legal sufficiency before responding, and have a dedicated team of CIPP certified professionals responsible for managing requests (and that team is supervised by two former federal cybercrime prosecutors who are experts in the law in this area). 

When not mocking Julian Assange, TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan tends his geek humor blog, eSarcasm. Follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.

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