The FBI has released a document detailing its plans to monitor social media and online news.
It may sound like a Big Brother tale straight out of Orwell, and that's pretty much exactly what it is. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other traditional law enforcement outfits are increasingly taking steps that are changing the Internet as we know it.
In a move long anticipated by Internet freedom advocates and privacy experts, the FBI posted a document on Jan. 19 in which it is calling on social media and Web experts to come forward and assist in creating an application that would be able to gather or scrape information from social media sites including Twitter and Facebook, as well as popular news sites, in order to provide a feed of breaking events, crisis and threats as part of its never-ending quest to ensure national security.
In plain English: The FBI hopes to dedicate more time and resources to monitoring you online and keeping tabs on the electronic media, and it has put out an APB in search of a few good men and/or women to help them achieve that objective.
The FBI wrote in the document that it would want the application also to have the ability to geo-locate the open-source social media 'search' by setting a radius both by miles and kilometers. That would likely be used to monitor Tweets and other social media data being used at protests, gatherings and any other event the FBI chooses to monitor.
So if they create this program, it would likely be installed in law enforcement vehicles, law enforcement officers' mobile devices and the Skywatch towers that are now being used at major events and gatherings across the nation, and which kept watch over Zuccotti Park in New York during the Occupy Wall Street encampment. The aim would likely be to ensure that social media is not being used to plan anything the authorities wish to quash, or to discuss anything they don't want to discuss. It would likely be used not only to protect, but to oppress.
Unfortunately, the FBI is not the only law enforcement agency that is breaking new ground in the arena of limiting or encroaching upon personal privacy on the Internet.
On Dec. 14, 2011, Suffolk County [Massachusetts] Assistant District Attorney Benjamin A. Goldberger sent a subpoena to Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco requesting information on a number of accounts and hashtags associated with the Occupy Boston protest movement to assist authorities with an official criminal investigation.
The investigation concerns the release of documents related to Boston Police Department personnel -- including salary information -- by some Web users associated with the Anonymous hacktivist collective last month. But Goldberger's subpoena went so far as to subpoena the hashtag #BostonPD, ensnaring the potentially thousands of people who have used that tag, all in an attempt by Goldberger to silence his, and the Boston Police Department's, opponents.
As the war over Internet privacy and Web freedom rages on, expect law enforcement to continue to commit massive violations of Internet privacy and freedom. It's the new way of the world.