When you tweet, the CIA listens

Documents obtained by privacy advocates reveal that Uncle Sam is monitoring social networks for people critical of the government. Can an enemies list be far behind?


DHS agents are allowed to include the text of a post in their incident reports, but not the personally identifiable information of the person who posted it. However, they’re also encouraged to include Web links back to the original source – making it extremely trivial to find out who said what. And even if they didn’t include a link – because, for example, the URL contained the name of the speaker, as with Twitter --  searching on the text itself will usually lead back to the source.

You can do this very easily yourself via Openbook, a search engine that pulls results from people who’ve made their Facebook status updates available to everyone. (If you’ve got a few hours to kill, search the phrase “CIA sucks.” Don’t blame me if you fall down into a rabbit hole of tin foil hat conspiracy theorists.)

The rationale the DHS uses for this kind of self-protective monitoring is that agency officials need to be aware of criticism of their departments and be able to respond to the media when questioned about it. But the potential for abuse is obvious. It’s a short hop skip and jump to the formation of an enemies list. For all we know, we are already there.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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