My Love Hate Relationship with Facebook and The Future Conspiracy
I love the basic premise of Facebook, apparently a billion other people do too.
When I first signed up, it was amazing that this new application grabbed my contact list, asked me a few simple questions, and bang! I was smack in the middle of a massive group of fellow curios and finding many old friends from times well back in my past.
Now that almost the entire literate internet population is listed in one way or another on this popular application, it is pretty easy to find anybody, provided they (or close friends of the person) have been listed. It is quite fantastic, for that purpose.
Have you noticed it is very easy to find & make contact with old acquaintances? Then you are stuck remembering your life of meaningless conversations with that person, you soon remember you let them go as a friend for a reason, right? But you probably added and tagged their pictures right?
Then there is the new Facebook interface, and I think everybody is lukewarm on it. I do applaud the attempt of the designers to try and unobtrusively re-organize the delivery of the Facebook user homepage to set it up for commercialization.
It’s the cognitive dissonance they are pushing against with the users right now, and yes people are leaving because of it. In the new Facebook the designers have been forced to consider additional market factors in the new design, including commercialization. Commercialization is the ‘y’ axis, Socialization is the ‘x’ axis, I will call ‘z’ the Nefarious Variable.
What of all that user generated data? What other purpose could it possibly serve? What if someone wanted to nefariously exploit it? Why would they possibly want to do that?
Commercialization is the ‘y’ axis, Socialization is the ‘x’ axis, I will call ‘z’ the Nefarious Variable.
CIA + Facebook: A Future You Won’t Want to Miss! *The following is totally fictional speculation based on a conspiracy theory of my own making, as personal muse, satire and blog fodder, that is unless of course I disappear one night under mysterious conditions.*
Is Facebook destined for a “Nefarious ‘Z’ Variable” future? Here’s what I’m thinking… They know you will continue to use it. You have invested a great deal of time and emotional energy, so any criticism to changes of its End User License Agreement will fall on deaf ears. That said, your content is now under ownership dispute. If you don’t think that matters, why is it being challenged?
It matters to somebody – look at this press snippet:
“Feb. 19, 2009 WASHINGTON – Facebook did an about face on Wednesday and dropped a controversial change to its terms of service that triggered a barrage of protests from users of the popular social network. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, in a post on the Facebook blog, said the social network was withdrawing the change to the terms of service which prompted concern among users over who owns the content on the social network. The February 4 change to the terms of service — the online agreement that users must accept to join — included language giving Facebook ‘perpetual worldwide license‘ to anything posted on the network. The move sparked a backlash among users with more than 85,000 joining a Facebook group calling itself “People Against the new Terms of Service.”
And, believe it or not – right while I have been composing this blog post, just yesterday on Thursday August 06, 2009 the following news hit the wires… check this headline out:
Twitter, Facebook and Google hit by cyber attacks
By Glenn Chapman (AFP) – 1 day ago
SAN FRANCISCO — Cyber attacks hammered Twitter, Facebook, and Google, disrupting the hip micro-blogging service and causing stumbles at the hot social-networking site while Google fended off assaults.
Twitter was down for more than an hour early in the morning on Thursday, before the eponymous California firm got it back online.
“The continuing denial of service attack is being mitigated, although there is still degraded service for some folks while we recover completely,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said in an official company blog.
“Twitter has been working closely with other companies and services affected by what appears to be a single, massively coordinated attack. As to the motivation behind this event, we prefer not to speculate.”
[bear with me, it continues…]
Facebook was “degraded” by an early-morning distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the Palo Alto, California-based Internet star’s website, said spokeswoman Brandee Barker.
“No user data was at risk and we have restored full access to the site for most users,” Barker said. “We’re continuing to monitor the situation.”
Twitter and Facebook have teamed with US Internet powerhouse Google to investigate the attacks.
[and the following quote, a little further down the page]
Similar to the phenomenon seen a month earlier during Iran’s political turmoil, pictures, videos and updates from Urumqi poured onto social networking and image sharing websites like Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
In many cases, items were reposted by other Internet users on sites outside China to preserve the content, while Twitter helped link people around the globe to images Chinese authorities did not want seen.
Cyber-sympathizers from around the world joined forces through Twitter in June to help Iranian protesters dodge censorship, get out news of violent clashes and avoid real-world capture following Iran’s disputed election that returned hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.
Cyber attacks on Web pages of Iranian opposition figures have continued in the aftermath of the controversial presidential election.
So, back to my original topic, CIA + Facebook…
In light of the recent & timely news to this Blog post, let’s pretend this is actually the work of the CIA in an intelligence gathering effort, and this DDoS attack was actually perpetrated by an authorized intelligence body.
The misinformation campaign would begin right at the moment of the crisis, and certainly would be planned and scripted.
For example, if the CIA was involved, they would revert to the basic operating procedure handbook and set-up such a misinformation campaign, and then proceed to ‘manage’ information being received by select media outlets, usually by way of an ‘exclusive scoop’. Released on a Friday night, at the end of office hours leaves weekend news editors scrambling for information, leaving the speculators and talking heads to bash around every angle until it is fixed in the public mind that they need to find the ‘villain’, whoever was responsible, once we know, we all sleep better. This gives the news makers some prime time confusion to broadcast [insert your Patsy name in the script here].
Don’t forget, it’s the media that feeds the public. Remember that Oswald guy?
What this story needs to pass the sniff test of a good CIA conspiracy theory is a single guy to blame. A scape goat. a Patsy with a ‘magic bullet’ right? So read on… here’s a piece of news from CNET that was released shortly after the initial attack was announced and everybody should have been still scrambling for answers…. according to the first wave of press releases the initial attack occurred at about 6:00 am local time (1200 GMT) and caused the service to go offline temporarily, by my calculation the following news was released within 8 hours from the start of the attack (and this news is already spreading all over Google & the internet. By Monday it will just be an assumed fact, and the news machine will move on)…
Twitter, Facebook attack targeted one user
August 6, 2009 4:32 PM PDT
Source CNET News: http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-10305200-245.html
A Georgian blogger with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and Google’s Blogger and YouTube was targeted in a denial-of-service attack that led to the sitewide outage at Twitter and problems at the other sites on Thursday, according to a Facebook executive.
The blogger, who uses the account name “Cyxymu,” (the name of a town in the Republic of Georgia) had accounts on all of the different sites that were attacked at the same time, Max Kelly, chief security officer at Facebook, told CNET News.
“It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard,” Kelly said. “We’re actively investigating the source of the attacks, and we hope to be able to find out the individuals involved in the back end and to take action against them, if we can.”
[same article, look at this comment a little further down the page]
In the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the sites, computers that have been compromised by viruses or other malware are instructed by the attacker’s computer to visit the specific Web sites all at the same time and repeatedly. The barrage of connection requests overwhelms the target sites, making it so that legitimate Web traffic can’t get through.
[The article author fails to insert here that illegitimate traffic commences, extracting or SQL injecting further code or executable instructions designed to compromise, or collect private data. That’s the actual purpose of the DDoS attack, not the disruption in service, disruption is only the bi-product. The article continues…]
Such coordinated attacks require the efforts of tens of thousands or more of hijacked computers, which together form a botnet. Spammers send e-mails with malicious attachments or URLs to millions of people to create botnets. Criminals also can lease existing botnets for specific campaigns for as little as 5 cents to 10 cents per bot.
[Here is where the misinformation campaign becomes visible. Keep reading]
A Facebook representative dismissed a theory that the attack was triggered by a spam campaign in which e-mails had links to the sites. It’s unlikely that there would be enough recipients–all clicking on the URLs at the same time–to bring a site down, he said. There was a spam campaign that directed people to Cyxymu’s accounts, but it wasn’t the cause of the DoS, he said.
“The people who are coordinating this attack, the criminals, are definitely determined and using a lot of resources,” Kelly said. “If they’re asking our infrastructure to generate hundreds of pages a second, that’s a lot of pages our users can’t see.”
Am I on to something?
This just popped up on CNET no less than 5 minutes ago:
Targeted Twitter user blames Russia
The Georgian blogger whose Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts were targeted in denial-of-service attacks on Thursday, says he thinks Russia’s federal security service is behind it.
“This hackers was from Russian KGB,” the blogger, who uses “Cyxymu” on his accounts, wrote in a tweet early on Friday, adding later: “My twitter is online! Thank you all for support after ciber [sic] attack from Russia!”
Because of the difficulty in tracing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks back to the source, unless someone takes credit for the attack or brags about it to online associates, it’s nearly impossible to determine exactly who was responsible.
So, they have gone back to the CIA standard operations manual! If all else fails, blame Russia! (*Has anyone actually interviewed this guy?)
Ok, so it’s not that ‘far-out’ an idea after all, is it?
Here’s what I think they would be partly after: In the rush to be popular and play in the traffic of all the cool things Facebook has to offer, we have all started tagging friends, foes, relatives, acquaintances and faces. Correlate these thoughts and this could really be the work of an intelligence agency.
Ask yourself this question: What’s the fundamental barrier for intelligence services having a decent worldwide facial recognition program at borders, government offices and airports? THE SIZE AND ACCURACY OF THE DATABASE!
It really would be as simple as writing a piece of code to crawl and copy the image content, tagged vectors, names and relational values of the tagged image base on Facebook. Once the CIA has a copy of this face-tagged relational database – who you are, who you know, and recently who you are related too – it’s all right there.
From this data it would be relatively straightforward to correlate personal information to the facial recognition engine, validating your identity and associations based on your own Facebook tagged images!
“Thanks for the data entry help.” Sincerely, Uncle Sam.
Do you think that if the CIA couldn’t achieve this nefarious goal using the Facebook API and a piece of legitimate code, or even if they failed to disguise a robot crawler to do the job, wouldn’t they just pressure the ownership to make the data available under the guise of National Security? Would they bring the full weight of the law to bear on the issue? My bet is yes.
If so, the first hint that the winds of change were blowing would be to watch the lawyers. I bet they would try to slide in some changes to the terms of service agreement.
Can you believe they didn’t think anyone would notice? I think they may just have accidentally tipped the CIA’s hand, or their next 5 year business plan, or both.
Current facial recognition software can locate a face in a single video frame, snap a live image in milliseconds, and query a database in tens of milliseconds to draw a page of data related to the face that was captured. For example: many casino operators have already implemented facial recognition software to deter and alert security to problem gamblers.
The facial recognition system is tied to those innocuous eyeball cameras you see everywhere and captures everybody who travels in and out of the gaming facilities.
These systems are no different than airport, train station and border security surveillance systems.
Imagine if, by ‘if’ I mean when the CIA sequesters a copy of the Facebook tagged images database? You will find yourself in a future where your shoes, bottle of water, toothpaste tube, hair gel and Facebook account will have a lot more in common.
Do you really know the people in your friend’s list? Do you know what they will be doing in 25 years from now? What religious, social or political groups they might belong to? Years after you dismiss them as old friends?
Do you realize that your data will probably outlive you?
Don’t forget that the CIA will have access to your information, and if you delete it – it won’t matter. They will have a mega-cache and a super SAN too.
How much could they learn about you if they were to crawl, consume and index your entire digital life? Will the CIA search engine be powered by Google?
Sure it’s a little anorexic as a conspiracy theory, but still, it’s food for thought. Keep watching the news. I certainly am.
Don’t believe it?
Here’s some compelling background info:
Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. The author of anti-multicultural tome ‘The Diversity Myth’, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.
The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise is in “data mining technologies”.
Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.
Dr. Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.
She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.
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