Assange Claims Automated Intelligence Gathering on Facebook

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

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WikiLeaks founder and frontman Julian Assange asserts that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established automated intelligence gathering operations on all major social networks and several of the largest internet-based companies.

Assange alleges that the data mining interfaces were implemented with the cooperation of the companies in order to diminish the high costs associated with providing records on an individual basis.

The allegations were levied in an interview with Assange posted by Russia Today:

"Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use," Assange stated.

Assange's accusations provide plenty of ammnution for the tinfoil hat conspiracy fanatics, but he stops short of actually claiming that the social network Facebook is actually a front for covert government domestic spying:

"Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by US intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that US intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them," Assange continued.

The essential question is whether the data harvesting systems have been established prior to the passage of legislative changes to current wiretapping and surveillance laws.

Law enforcement officials claim that investigations are being stymied by the rapid change in communications platforms which have exceeded their ability to effectively execute search warrants in a timely manner.

The advent of new media like social networks, new communications channels like IM, IRC, VoIP, and new devices like smartphones, have rendered current laws governing wire tapping outdated, and officials want lawmakers to narrow the gap by addressing the issue with new legislation.

Assange's allegations raise the question as to whether law enforcement and intelligence agencies may have established monitoring operations prior to Congressional consideration of the issue.

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