The personal details concerning the most rudimentary aspects of our life, such as our birth date, email and home addresses, phone numbers, educational and job attainments, or even religious associations, have become available in the virtual sea of online material. Social networking platforms have transformed into a direct source of the most private information converting Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a host of other portals into treasured channels of intelligence acquisition. Already in the United States there are entire intelligence infrastructures, such as the Open Source Center in Virginia, dedicated to social-media tracking operations. Intelligence analysts are tasked with filtering and examining millions of Facebook messages, chat logs, tweets, statuses, and other data.
As supported by the Associated Press, this exaggerated focus on social media backtracking was sparked by the 2009 Iranian election protests, when numerous Iranian protesters flooded twitter with outright contestations for the electoral results that had reinstated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. At a first glance it would appear that social media is merely used as a tool that gathers information, a way to keep governments updated on worldwide public opinion. For instance, ever since the legitimization of gay marriage, the adoption of Facebook’s “rainbow profile picture” has provided a source for a global judgment poll. Consequently, sifting through the collective dispositions of organizations across the World Wide Web is supposedly necessary in order to disclose countless political distresses: what are societies discerning in Egypt? How fragile is China’s political stability? What is overwhelming American citizens? If one desires to be exceptionally optimistic, the underlying immorality for privacy violation could be overshadowed by national security concerns. The end would then justify the means.
However, in spite of such “benevolent” intentions, numerous recent studies have revealed the use of social media by intelligence agencies for other, subtler, ends. The exploitation of extracted information is uncovered by Global Research in Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda, Pentagon Seeks to Manipulate Social Media for Propaganda Purposes, and Social Media: Air Force ordered software to manage army of Fake Virtual People. The report has demonstrated how the data gathered from Social Networks, especially from Facebook and Twitter, actually serves worldwide advertising interests. A bluntly outright and advanced global cyber espionage enterprise, existing for the sake of creating a widespread of fake identities that undertake covert operations in the name of universal propaganda.
Is this the end that justifies such dissolute means? Consider the simplicity with which any amateur internet user is able to research photographs of people’s residences, track their location at any given time, steal private email account credentials, or gather information on someone’s family or friends. Fake identities can be forged, real identities attacked and stolen. What is truly under threat, international security or rather our own personal security? It is of no surprise that many Internet users are worried about the amount of private information that swirls on the Web, and are ready to condemn current laws for not being sound enough. Today, everyone and anyone can potentially become the hunted target of an attack, and, tragically, it is possible to learn the weaknesses of any prey.
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