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NSA To Datamine Social Networking Sites

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the go-where-the-data-is dept.

346

An anonymous reader writes "New Scientist has discovered that the NSA is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in Internet technology -- specifically the forthcoming 'semantic web' championed by the Web standards organisation W3C -- to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals."

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Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502238)

NSA Researcher: "Herr Direktor, the results from mining Slashdot have just come in!"
NSA Director Alexander: "Well, what have you found, son?"
NSA Researcher: "Well, sir, according to the report, this multi-billion dollar project has revealed that TripMaster Monkey [slashdot.org] is insightful, informative & interesting ... also that ..."
NSA Director Alexander: "Yes, what else?"
NSA Researcher: "It's about Commander Taco, sir ... he's gay [slashdot.org] .
NSA Director Alexander: "My GOD! Get me the president! And make sure he's dishonerably discharged immediately!"
NSA Researcher: "Yes SIR!"

How are they certain that the rules derived from these sites like MySpace or even Slashdot are even accurate? People post mis-information all the time & you can hardly call MySpace a reliable source for even seeding a semantic web. You can build a social network but even then it's hard because you're linking mostly aliases. Nowhere will you find my real name associated with my slashdot or myspace account--though you may be able to link them.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (5, Interesting)

Moqui (940533) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502297)

On MySpace, I am independently wealthy, married to *two* supermodels, and have so much Slashdot karma that I have infinite mod points.

Because, as we all know, no one lies on the Internet. :)

In all seriousness though, there is a difference between the NSA parsing MySpace pages and the NSA pulling down phone records. It's my fault if I put anything on the social sites that could be used against me in the future (see: retarded bank robbers who post pictures of their "loot" with masks off on their MySpace pages) as the site is public by its very definition (well, the publicly non-friend sections that is). My phone records on the other hand, are private.

Data mine all you want, I don't think it will give you that much information. That is, other than how not to style a webpage.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (3, Interesting)

TCM (130219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502446)

It's my fault if I put anything on the social sites that could be used against me in the future (see: retarded bank robbers who post pictures of their "loot" with masks off on their MySpace pages) as the site is public by its very definition (well, the publicly non-friend sections that is).
I'd be wary about this. By the same logic, would you agree to full-scale public surveillance in picture and sound combined with massive computing power to dig out any detail and hold it against you, because it's public anyway?

Example: I don't participate in Payback schemes, because there is a difference between

1) the local gas station clerk knows what I bought in his station only and can maybe remember my face for some days.

2) the gas company knows what I bought nation-wide and can dig through it with unlimited accuracy.

If you have to be careful all the time about what you say publicly, guess what you have? Ask people from before-1989 easter germany or a chinese citizen. They can tell you.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (2)

Moqui (940533) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502542)

You bring up a good point. And it is a slippery slope when talking about the survelliance and analysis of populations. I do agree with you, and am usually the first to throw up the caution flag when discussing personal liberties. However, there is a jump in level between what I post on a public website by my own hand, and cameras in the sky that monitor where I walk (though our compatriots in the London already have to deal with this).

You mention Payback schemes, by which I assume you mean "savings cards" say for cash-back on gas, or discounts on groceries (if I misunderstood, my apologies, as the rest won't apply). How do you pay for your gas or purchases? If it is with cash, then you can be relatively sure that it isn't trackable. But if you are putting it on your VISA checkcard, then not participating in the payback program really doesn't matter -- if the government wanted to find out what you purchased, the probably could by going through your purchase records on your digital money.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (0)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502556)

Data mine all you want, I don't think it will give you that much information. That is, other than how not to style a webpage.

Personally, I think the agents just want to hook up with all the half-naked 15 year old girls out there.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502440)

Presumably, if they're smart, they'll make it available but treat it as potentially inaccurate or deliberately misleading until demonstrated otherwise.

Presumably. If they're smart.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502444)

"Nowhere will you find my real name associated with my slashdot or myspace account--though you may be able to link them."

There will be alot of unrelatable accounts for one person, I expect to read articles telling me the spooks are tracking 10 trillion people on the net, and have managed to connect M.Moore to OBL with less than six "go betweens".

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (1)

cmdr_beeftaco (562067) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502472)

Is that you Jack Bauer?

I am Jack Bauer (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502503)

Yes it's me, Jack Bauer. Now, I want you to turn yourself in. Don't be afraid, we'll just need you to spend some time with me in the friendly interrogation room. I just want answers. Nevermind that the last five people I interrogated were beaten & yelled at until they gave me answers they didn't know--it's standard CTU procedure.

Re:Standard Waste of Our Tax $ (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502524)

I've had a notion for awhile that you and TMM are actually the same person.

Welcome to.. (2, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502242)

.. 1984. George was right, just off by 22 years.

Re:Welcome to.. (4, Interesting)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502286)

.. 1984. George was right, just off by 22 years.

The NSA's been intercepting & analysing any communications it can get its hands on since its inception.

Nothing new here, and its been going on since long before 1984 (although george was smart seeing it coming in '48).

Re:Welcome to.. (1)

antiMStroll (664213) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502620)

Any proof of that? Evidence the NSA mined all civil communications for generations would be political dynamite (if the use of such adjectives are still considered wise on-line.)

Re:Welcome to.. (2, Insightful)

gatzke (2977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502647)

In 1984, people were required to have the TV spy sets in their houses to be watched. You are not required to post on MySpace or /.

In 1984, I think you could not turn off the TV. In 2006, you can turn off your computer and TV and go outside.

You are not spied on inside your house without cause, but posting on the internet is like putting a big sign up in your front yard with information availalable to the public in general. If you don't like people reading your public information, don't post online or be careful what you post or post disinformation.

Yes, the NSA probably has hooks into banks and credit cards. Don't like that? Use cash / gold / barter for transactions. Nobody forces you to pay 18% interest on a credit card. The 15 page user agreement you signed probably has something in there about sharing your information with other parties. The credit card companies sell your information to marketing firms, why not the NSA?

If you want more secure communication, use PGP for email and SSH for tunneling around encrypted.

If you want even more secure communication, tempest proof your computer.

If you want secure communication, don't use the phone or a computer, or develop a one-tim-pad system.

Emmanuel Goldstein... (0, Redundant)

parasonic (699907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502319)

How well do these ideologies match up with our current Regime?

Chapter 1 - Ignorance is Strength
Chapter 2 - Freedom is Slavery
Chapter 3 - War is Peace

How is this any different ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502348)

... Than corps doing basically the same thing? We encourage people to make public details about themselves, what do they expect? People allow "non evil" companies like Google to mine their personal data for the profit of Google, why is anyone shocked that the govt would be interested in the same information?

Re:Welcome to.. (1)

bzaks (936143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502352)

we were never at war with iraq.... we were always at war with iran.... ;) at least my facebook account is relatively safe! I keep it privatized! HAHAHAHAHA!

Re:Welcome to.. (1)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502428)

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

George Orwell

Just not feeling it today... (3, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502243)


You know, as much as I'd like to get all worked up about this issue and fire off another foamy-mouthed diatribe about the pervasiveness of government surveillance, Big Brother, etc., etc., I'm having difficulty justifying it. After all, this information is being posted out there, specifically for others to view. If you put a sign in your front yard declaring how much you hate the government, you shouldn't act too surprised when the government reads it.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502316)

I put my information out there for beered-up, iPod using college kids to see, not the NSA. By the system of the site I use (Facebook) you should be a friend of a friend, or attend OSU to see that. It's a little different than a sign in the yard.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502420)

/*By the system of the site I use (Facebook) you should be a friend of a friend, or attend OSU to see that.*/

What do you mean by "... should be a friend of a friend or attend OSU..."? As far as I know, I can do a name search on Facebook for whomever I want and read whatever I want from their profile page. Anything you put on Facebook is *public* information and should be treated as such. I've already seen articles in my local paper about hiring officers using alumni e-mail addresses to look at what a person has posted on their Facebook account [startribune.com] , and using that data as part of the hiring process.

As the grandparent said, social networking sites are as public as a sign on your lawn. If you put something up, and it gets read by the "wrong" person, well, that's your fault.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

Thalagyrt (851883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502538)

You'll see someone's full profile if they're in one of your networks. If they aren't in one of your networks, all you'll see is a picture and their name/school. So, I can only see people at University of Miami, and people who I have on my friend list from other schools. I can't go look you up at OSU and see your profile without you either friending me or sending me a private message/poke first.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (3, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502329)

If you put a sign in your front yard declaring how much you hate the government, you shouldn't act too surprised when the government reads it.

True... but if you put personal data up on the Internet for everyone to see, hoping to attract like-minded individuals and get your personal ideas and beliefs out into the main stream, you really don't expect the Federal Government to take that information, process, and try to link you to nefarious doings, do you? Mind you, I think it's a poor idea to put too much correct personal information out there, because it's not just government snoops you have to worry about. Still, given the fact that it's easy to string together unrelated information to make a plausible case (prosecutors do this a lot), you have to wonder just how the Feds might misinterpret your information and calim your involvement in something you have nothing to do with. Remember, we interned Japanese-Americans during WWII, not because they were spies, but just because of their Japanese ancestry.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

dugjohnson (920519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502380)

but if you put personal data up on the Internet for everyone to see, hoping to attract like-minded individuals and get your personal ideas and beliefs out into the main stream, you really don't expect the Federal Government to take that information, process, and try to link you to nefarious doings, do you?

Don't you? That seems a bit naive. When I was in high school in the late 60s (yes, I'm THAT old) we knew that pictures were being taken of all of us at the anti-war rallies. For those of us on a stage from time to time, we were pretty darn sure we weren't going to be allowed to run for governor any time soon. Now, of course, that's all changed (has it?) and I did, in fact, inhale.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (3, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502583)

When I was in high school in the late 60s (yes, I'm THAT old) we knew that pictures were being taken of all of us at the anti-war rallies. For those of us on a stage from time to time, we were pretty darn sure we weren't going to be allowed to run for governor any time soon.

Yes, but those pictures would be placed in a physical file, then dumped in a filing cabinet somewhere, to languish and moulder until someone thought to try and use the data in it for some purpose, where they would have to drag it out, collate and coordinate it with data from god-knows how many other files.

We're talking the use of high-speed computers running efficient data mining algorithms which could potentially sift through billions of pieces of data and track trends in matters of hours, not weeks or months. Not to mention, data would constantly be added, and the trends updated on a daily basis. And you wouldn't be going to any rallies to have this done to you -- it could swept out of your blog or right off your personal MySpace page. And even though you haven't a traitorous bone in your body, these data mining algorithms could link your data to the data gleaned from others and create what amounts to a case that you're party to something you're not.

Think of the recommendations Amazon makes when you purchase something: they track trends in the purchase of items, and make suggestions about other items that others have purchased when they purchased the item you've selected. Now take that and expand it.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

teratogenicbenzene (887723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502368)

Yes, but frankly, it is not any of the government's any business to care. At least not as far as it extends to datamining sites like MySpace or facebook, or any major social site on the 'net, just on the offchance someone posts "I'm gonna blow up a Wal-Mart today." Just about everything else falls under free speech, which allows me to post a "I don't trust my government" sign on my virtual lawn and not expect a gang of SWAT thugs kicking in my door.

This program smacks of the all-two common "everyone is potentially guilty, so let's keep a close eye on them" mantra that seems to be a favorite these days.
If the government wanted to keep a close eye (and I'm sure they are) on obvious sites related to terrorism, fine. They shouldn't be spending millions of taxpayer dollars spying on me, just so if they ever need out-of-context dirt they can have it from some post I made on my sisters blog.

It's this pompus disdain for American citizenry that really pisses me off about my government. Instead of fixing the myriad of very real and very pressing issues (war in Iraq, energy prices, america's brain-drain, etc.), they're instead enacting hundreds of poorly planned, expensive, and (in many ways) intrusive "policies" with minimal oversight. That's what has me dreading the future possibilites. It might not be all that bad now, but this pervasive paranoid mentality scares me.

Hey, TMM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502396)

Just wanted you to know that your sig is much less obnoxious under the new format. Now there is nothing standing in the way of you becoming a /. editor!

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502430)

This story reminds me of this artical: linky [theonion.com]

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502443)


Assuming your American, your government is spending money gathering data in the name of terrorism from MySpace?

Look, they are spending money You gave to them. Your comment is like saying you can't get fired up at government workers for playing solitaire all day because the computer they were provided has it pre-installed.

Of course you can!!!!

Re:Just not feeling it today... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502477)

I think the bigger issue is this has no chance of catching any actual terrorists or criminals or anyone the NSA might have legitimate reason to be snooping on. When will they figure out that TERRORISTS ARE NOT STUPID?

Now just wait for Bush to come along complaining how New Scientists is hurting the National Security effort and we should all just stop worrying about the NSA because we have nothing to hide anyway.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

Coleco (41062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502497)

It's a valid point but as other's have pointed out you have to question the legitimacy of the information being posted. Blogs are trivial to fake. And by the way it's not illegal to put a sign in your yard saying that you hate the government.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

hyfe (641811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502513)

If you put a sign in your front yard declaring how much you hate the government, you shouldn't act too surprised when the government reads it.

Yes, but if FBI agents start amassing in groups outside your house reading and pointing at your sign there's something wrong.

Many actions, especially many of those performed by the government has to be judged more by their potential for misuse than for their potential use.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

keyne9 (567528) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502531)

Technically, our lives are "out there," specifically for others to view, as well. That does not mean the government has any business categorizing honest citizens, unless of course, we are now regarded as a "threat" or an "enemy."

This intrusive goose-stepping must stop.

The New COINTELPRO (5, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502540)

What is the point? Do they think terrorists are going to be putting up MySpace profiles? No, this is about finding and suppressing people who question the government. This isn't about terrorists, its about peace activists, environmentalists, socialists, libertarians, and anyone else not satisfied with the status quo. Think COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org] . This has no purpose other than facilitating the suppression of dissent. To quote from the wikipedia page:

According to Brian Glick, in War at Home, COINTELPRO used a broad array of methods, including:

1. "Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents." [3]

2. "Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists." [4]

3. "Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, 'investigative' interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters."

4. "Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks--including political assassinations--were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official 'terrorism.'". [5]


This is scary. Just because this information is out there doesn't mean the government should datamine it or act on it. Even in public, one has a reasonable assumption that one won't be stalked or spied upon. Besides, this is a complete waste of resources that could go to doing soemthign effective to fight terrorism. But the powers that be honestly don't want that. If you are selling security, you have to make sure people feel insecure.

Re:Just not feeling it today... (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502629)

The government is watching you man!

seriously some guys with black helicoptors could be flying around any time now. and the worst thing I've done is speak vocally against all the crappy censorship that people use all the time. i'm willing to bet that the fbi was monitoring all my internet traffic the past week, luckily i just got a virus. meh it was doing all kinds of crazy stuff >_.

oh well.

Appropriate Tags (1)

Fahrvergnuugen (700293) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502244)

Evil NSA Spying

First Post (5, Funny)

teratogenicbenzene (887723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502249)

First Post!

And what has the NSA learned from this?

That I'm a lazy, self-aggrandizing slashdot reader with way too much time on my hands.

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502281)

First Post!
They might get you for misrepresentation of facts and spreading misinformation.

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502504)

And you will stay lazy and self-aggrandizing because the government now has the ability, on a person by person basis, to squelch anyone who would seek to inform or influence you.

Re:First Post (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502573)

Not to mention inept...

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502251)

stavros first post

I feel safer already! (1, Funny)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502252)

It's good to see such huge advances in domestic spying instead of things like stem cell research.

http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

Re:I feel safer already! (0, Offtopic)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502357)

It's good to see such huge advances in domestic spying instead of things like stem cell research.

I know it's modded "Funny," but there's a grain fo truth to it. Just how much is getting spent on this? How much money does the Federal government waste on such programs while our schools, our healthcare system, and our veterans go wanting?

Not so cowardly now are we? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502257)

Fuck the NSA!

-Anon

Re:Not so cowardly now are we? (1)

Scorpion265 (650012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502361)

That was so eloquently put, I just don't know what to say! However, I am rather glad that I deleted my myspace account. For one I was *shudder* actually starting to get obsessive about it, and two, well... it's friggin myspace. Good riddance.

Re:Not so cowardly now are we? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502452)

> Fuck the NSA!

Mr. Coward,
Please remain at the registered missle address for 66.35.250.150 for another three minutes.

Less false positives? (2, Insightful)

DimGeo (694000) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502278)

If that can help reduce the false positives, I am all for it.

Re:Less false positives? (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502408)

Not spying on their own citizens would also make less false-positives happen.

Facebook (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502284)

Hey! Those people aren't in my school network! Seriously, though... Would sites like Facebook open access to the NSA or can they just go in there, bypassing the usual requirement of being in the school network? I'd hate to have to see the NSA set up fake school e-mails at EVERY school on Facebook.

Hey I like it! (5, Funny)

hrrY (954980) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502290)

I may *want* to be data-mined...think about the promise of a genuine advancement in online-speed-dating. Or maybe they could start a service that datea-mines, hmm, the possibilities. Although, does that include or not include those my tier? I don't date anyone outside my tier; there's principalities.

Won't someone think of the children???? (1)

trigonalmayhem (938527) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502301)

Maybe they'll pass the info they glean from this off to high schools, since they seem so interested in digging through every detail of their students' personal lives looking for anything incriminating. If we teach the children to live in a police state it will seem normal to them when they grow up and there will be no complaints!

Re:Won't someone think of the children???? (2, Interesting)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502510)

Well said sir.
I think there are two aspects to this. The first is the mining if information which is subvertly obtained. An example of this is the ATT monitoring case - this is not appropriate and assumes everyone guilty. As to your point, most people I talk to don't mind this because "they have nothing to hide". Get real, sure you may have nothing to hide, yet. What guarantees do you have that the powers that be won't dictate "X" as an unsuitable activity. We should absolutely not teach our children that living in a police state is acceptable.

The second aspect that ties more into this specific story is how much information you provide. As another poster has stated, you are GIVING this information away. It's like placing a billboard to the world advertising yourself. If you don't want anyone to know that information, then why display it. This is maybe another attitude that should be examined. On top of the Government, look what happened with the Sidekick [slashdot.org] - some individual had their privacy invaded (it looks like they were caught red-handed - but where is innocent until proven guilty?). If for nothing other then the risks associated with social engineering, we shouldn't teach our children to post everything about themselves online - it is not a private medium.

I have no problem with it (2, Insightful)

m-wielgo (858054) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502304)

It's about time they do it. It should help decrease real, potential threats like school shootings and child molesters.
How many times have you heard myspace on the news in a negative way? (except for "on the money", where they talk about how much it's worth) I don't mind it (NSA doing the datamining), being that you voluntarily post your information.

Re:I have no problem with it (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502401)

It should help decrease real, potential threats like school shootings and child molesters.

Hmmm potential threats... I love it. Let's get those criminals before they commit crimes. It's just too bad we can't tap into the heads of citizens and arrest them based on their thoughts. Go thought-crimes!

How many times have you heard myspace on the news in a negative way?

So true man. I've heard a lot of bad things about Aruba too. How come we let Aruba murder our innocent vacationing students? Someone should put a stop to it, bomb Aruba or something.

Re:I have no problem with it (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502536)

Wow, you're really fallen for the overhyped crap the media outlets call news haven't you?

Nevermind that most child molesters are family members. Lets safely ignore that, and blame myspace because 3 people were stupid.

Public info (4, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502307)

I have no issue with data analysis of personal information available on the web (assuming it got there legally).

But this does absolutely nothing for national security - which is the namesake of the agency. If a hate site goes up and government starts watching it to see if they're promoting violence, then fine. But creating profiles of everyone online is pointless. I'm sure they already have systems that scour the web and raise red flags. But putting my name and profile into a database at the NSA does nothing to aid security (I promise :).

Re:Public info (1)

m-wielgo (858054) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502398)

See my earlier post in this thread.. By datamining myspace, the NSA can spot terrorist type acts (school shootings, bomb scares, etc) and child molesters before it happens. There have been numerous news stories of police and/or school authorities finding out about a potential threat like a planned school shooting and taking action before the harm is done.

Re:Public info (2, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502506)

Right, so they arrest a bunch of random people, and when nothing happens they say "see! We did that!" When someone asks them to prove it, they whine about national security.

I've got a terrorist repellant rock that's worked just as well, it's even driven all the terrorists to Canada.

Re:Public info (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502521)

So if police and school authorities have been successful at it why should the NSA get involved? Let states and municipalities take care of it, not a federal super-secret agency. I agree that people tracking down information on the internet can help find these potential threats to local institutions. But student school shootings are not a threat to national security, e.g. it won't topple our government. And a file on every individual who posts on the internet doesn't help.

Re:Public info (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502411)

And it's not as if social networking sites are bastions of truthful facts. People who want to explore gender identity issues often do so online. People who want to hook up with hot people may exagerate information about themselves. Even if the NSA eventually figures out that someone goes by the opposite gender online from what they really are in the real world, how does all this time and effort help national security exactly?

Re:Public info (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502574)

Even if the NSA eventually figures out that someone goes by the opposite gender online from what they really are in the real world, how does all this time and effort help national security exactly?

Men acting as women online must be gay. Gayness is a threat to marriage. Any threat to marriage is a threat to our national security. C'mon, get with the program!

Re:Public info (1)

daranz (914716) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502423)

They expect people connected to a hate site to go on the web openly admit to having a myspace account, and having several friends associated with it, who are in the same sort of hate groups. Problem is, people who go to hate sites don't exactly want to throw their personal data out there in the first place, which makes the whole project kinda pointless.

Re:Public info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502644)

I think you ignore the "most criminals are dumbasses" factor. I wonder if Tim McVeigh would have had a MySpace?

This would be unreliable (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502310)

So, all I have to do is pretend to be someone else and go create accounts and blogs all over the place as the person I am spoofing and the NSA would add all the bogus information I create to my targets permanent record.

or am I missing something?

Re:This would be unreliable (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502371)

Hey, unreliable information is what the NSA crave.

That's why they paid Ahmed Chalabi all that money.
And boy, did they get all the unreliable information they wanted.

This is why we're fighting against REAL ID as well (4, Insightful)

Seth Cohn (24111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502341)

They've sworn up and down how they won't create a central database, but this sort of datamining is exactly what they have in mind...

Add in RFID chipped drivers licenses (not to mention the new passports which DO use RFID), and you have the making of a complete "We know who you are, who you hang out with, and where you were last night" totalitarian tracking system.

This is why many of us are moving to New Hampshire, joining the http://freestateproject.org/ [freestateproject.org] , and working against these things. We nearly stopped New Hampshire from participating in REALID (the Republican Senators are selling out the state for a mere $3 million...) and we're not done yet.

A great, valid source of information! (1)

GregStevensLA (976873) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502346)

What a great source for the NSA to rely on!

Because, you know, I certainly do know all 628 people on my myspace.com [myspace.com] "friends list"! And I'm sure it won't be confused by the fact that Lance Bass has 9 "profiles" on there (all of which say he's a different age, by the way), or the fact that Harry Potter and Malfoy are "friends" with one another in their profiles. I'm sure the NSA is keeping a full dossier on them.

Why don't all researchers rely on online profiles for their data about people? I can see the headlines now: New Study Reveals: All men have 8 inch d!cks, and all women are D-cups!

Re:A great, valid source of information! (1)

mvsmo (960239) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502404)

Wait, an 8-inch penis isn't normal?

How do you sleep at night, NSA workers? (4, Interesting)

kthejoker (931838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502358)

I still don't get how NSA workers as American citizens can justify this kind of BS in their heads. They seriously must be the most sociopathic, mean-spirited, fascist-minded people in the country.

Seriously, as a citizen of this great country, I couldn't sleep at night if I were personally responsible in some way for collecting and aggregating this information.

NSA workers respond: (1)

BaronHethorSamedi (970820) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502646)

"On a large pile of money, with many beautiful ladies."

C'mon, these guys figured out a way to get paid to surf MySpace and compile vast amounts of information on (purportedly) attractive women.

Should Slashdotters really be casting stones at them for this?

Last Desperate Cries Against Freedom (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502359)

We can either panic, or realize that moves like this are the last desperate cries, by those who hate Freedom and Liberty, before they are thrown into the dustbin of History.

Gird thy loins, and guard thy lions, for the battle for freedom is ne'er won by faint of heart.

Net Neutrality a Bad Thing? (1)

Tyrsenus (858934) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502370)

I'm now all for a tiered Internet...

as long as the NSA is on the bottom tier.

Myspace (4, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502387)

Thanks to MySpace, the NSA now knows that there are far more 18-year-old bisexual cheerleaders named Tiffany out there than anyone ever realized, there is a very good reason so many musicians never get record deals, and everyone in the entire world is in your extended social network (especially that creepy mutant Tom.)

Yes, because terrorists use MySpace (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502395)

I think there needs to be an intelligence meter along the lines of one of those rollercoaster "you must be this tall to get on the ride" signs for democratic participation. Anyone who seriously believes that this sort of thing exists to fight terrorism rather than monitor the public for potential signs of rebellious behavior or personalities that might one day become political rebels would fall well below the level of participating. I don't know how they could make it more obvious that their goal is social control, not bonafide anti-terrorist.

Disagree? When was the last time that you saw a terrorist on a social network like MySpace, posting hints about their desire to terrorize others? What are the odds that they would even join, since terrorism is more difficult the more exposed you are on "the grid?"

Re:Yes, because terrorists use MySpace (1)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502500)

I rather doubt that Osama bin Laden has a MySpace too, his idea of crimes against humanity are usually a bit grandiose...

In all seriousness, there's a lot that can be learned from online communities. Jihadi groups are as wired as any other group, and learning how social networks develop online helps determine how jihadi bulletin boards and websites connect with terrorist cells worldwide. Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda also recruit online more and more these days, and being able to stop that will be of great importance as al-Qaeda further tries to recruit home-grown extremists like the Canadians who were recently arrested by the RCMP.

From what I understand, terrorists have quite distinctive patterns in their connections with other members of their organization than does anyone else - and once anti-terrorist agencies can learn to isolate and recognize those patterns of activity it gives them a valuable tool in stopping attacks.

Re:Yes, because terrorists use MySpace (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502602)

As I often suggest in slippery-slope discussions, perhaps we should actively encourage this sort of behaviour by the government. It's going to happen anyway: power corrupts, sheeple are naive, and all that. But the sooner it gets to the point that the average voter in the street sees the dangers, rather than just those who believe in civil liberties and scrutinise government actions, the sooner the popular feeling will start to turn against it.

Then the media will pick it up, and government popularity will take a nosedive as people switch from buying anything with the words "fighting terrorism" in it to assuming most things like that are government smokescreens for unpleasant behaviour that wouldn't normally be acceptable. Backing further draconian laws will become politically untenable, no matter how much the Powers That Be offer in political funding, and the whole tower of cards will come crashing down.

The problem is, if the process happens slowly, it's too subtle for the average voter to notice it and the changes are too small in isolation for people to vote against en masse. Thus I think the way to beat it is to accelerate the inevitable "things getting worse" part, to the point where it's so obvious that everyone starts crying foul and "things get better" happens as soon as possible.

Just a thought...

Welcome to the beast (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502403)

You will be tracked, data mined, cross referenced and subjectively profiled
by goonsquads.

You will have RFID passports.

You will have a national id which may also be RFID.

You will obey our new world order.

You will.

YUO FAIL iT... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502410)

who sell another Formed his own

It's an ideal solution (1)

99luftballon (838486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502418)

No-one wants to be snooped on but this information is volunteered and as such is fair game. I'll fight to the death to keep my details private but if people are putting that information up there it's fair game. Not sure they are going to catch too many terrorists that way (Likes: Sport, hanging out, overthrowing decadent and secular regimes...).

We should all be relieved! (1)

DwarfGoanna (447841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502419)

I mean, the NSA is only going to target those goofy social networking sites, right? I mean, I can't think of a reason they'd want to data mine and cross reference the membership of a technology site where the average user is not only technically skilled, but also tends to lean toward non-standard politics. I mean, all we talk about here are things like encryption, the NSA, military hardware, robotics, and...okay, Wii. But don't think for a second that NOBODY can link you back to who you really are from here, and a body like the NSA would find /. a place of interest.

Truly, we are all terrorists (1)

facehugger666 (446459) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502441)

Im so glad the government is allocating billions of dollars to find the enemy, that is, citizens of the United States. This administration has consistently used disinformation and propaganda, social divisions in society and class warfare combined with xenophobia and hate to continually drive apart Americans so a common cause against these facistst is never produced. Combine bad policy with "get out there and shop so the terrorists wont win" distractions and Im sorry, We The People are just becoming people, chattel for a New World Order of serfdom and domination.

Now, NSA, please come lock me up before I really get outta hand...

Police State (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502448)

Okay, we all know what a Police State [wikipedia.org] is, but I've only ever heard one sensible sounding description of how to recognise one in the making:

When the state, in the interest of "National security", monitors the movement and activities of citizens on an individual basis irrespetive of their criminal status, all are effectively being treated with suspicion until proven innocent. This is how a police state begins.

Anyway, how exactly is this system expected to collate info ONLY on US citizens? Obviously, it won't.

This + trusted computing = nightmare (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502465)

Imagine a world where unless you go to a lot of trouble to avoid it:

* Thanks to Trusted Computing, every web access is traced to a particular PC.
* Every blog, isp, and what-not in America is required to keep logs to "prevent terrorism" and "catch pedophiles."
* The feds mine blogs
* The FISA court freely hands out subpeonas

Put those together and the non-technically savvy will have zero privacy. Only stupid terrorists will get caught and a lot of non-savvy non-terrorists will get investigated, possibly to their detriment.

What could possibly be gained by this? (1)

bemenaker (852000) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502471)

Considering that most social networking sites are high school, and college kids, wtf could possibly be gained from this. QUIT WASTING MY MONEY!!!!!

I do not see one slightest bit of useful information, except for who smokes dope, that could be gained from this stupid idea. Please, someone, tell there is a valid reason for this stupidity. Not too mention, this is questionable under Constitutional terms.

We should expect that actually. (4, Interesting)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502475)

With this particular administration, it's troublesome because I just KNOW they are going to use it to serve their interests, not ours in general.

I got worked up about this a while ago and the hard truth is that free speech is just that --free! We all are big kids and have spoken on the Internet. If what we have written is defensible, then we can expect to live by it. Those of us older school netizens are very likely to understand this and post accordingly. I honestly worry about the current generation however. It's difficult to differentiate casual speech where feelings are expressed in less than flattering ways from more serious speech with some measure of intent behind it.

Which again brings me back to some worry where this administration is concerned. The fact that they are looking to do this because they can suggests to me the motivation is less than pure. Honestly, why bother unless there is some benefit to all of us for doing it. Afterall we are the ones paying the bill.

We, as a people, are reaching a general state of unrest --and we've got reasons for that. The Internet empowers us to trancend the ordinary media channels and exercize our role in ways that make established power channels nervous. Real change brings with it some accountability for those gaming the system toward their own ends. Given their position, this is a perfectly logical reaction.

A government doing the right things, that has the high ground where justifying it's actions is concerned, has little reason for efforts like this. Take this as strong evidence this is not the case with our current leadership.

So, even though we have all spoken on the net and technically should not worry because it's all legal, I say there is some cause for worry for the accountability factor. (Not us, our leadership.)

Here's the takeaway: If you want to speak, in this connected day and age, on matters of government, you had better make sure what you write is defensible and that you have the high ground in your convictions. If not, you will be marginalized at some time in the future if your activities merit the effort. That sucks, but that's gonna be the way it is until such time as we elect a solid government that will modify existing legislation to keep such activities in check. Trust me, this particular one is just not ever going to do that.

The good news, IMHO, is that this same connected power that puts us in an exposed position also permits us to work together toward solid reform that is in our best interests! Best to take serious advantage of that now, before the advantage is lost, or legislated away. Is there no longer any doubt about the true intent of net neutrality? Sure, money is the big driver here, but so is speech! The blogs, for better or worse, have made complete fools of the established media channels and a growing number of people grok that now. (Why the hell did it take so long?)

We see our attorney general saying he is open to the idea of prosecution for whistle blowers, our President and Vice have claimed to be above the law and cloak pretty much everything in secrecy, our global actions are more self-serving than ever, recent court appointees are screened for their deference to established power channels, and our expectation of privacy is being marginalized under the ruse of greater security. (God damm it, a whole lotta people have no fucking backbone!) --And there is more, but hey --I've gotta work you know?

Show me some benefit and I'll ignore this whole thing. Until then, it's probably safe to say this will be used to marginalize any potential challengers to the current status quo politically.

Despite this, I personally will continue to speak. Our speech lies at the core of our freedom. Stay quiet and all is lost. Join me, put aside your fear they cultivate and speak your mind --just be sure it's true and just. --eventually we all will be better for it, IMHO.

Too much data (1)

Tyrsenus (858934) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502482)

The NSA can have all the data they want, but if there is not a useful, fast, accurate and automated way for them to search through it (which I doubt they do) then the only use it has is to assert power.

If Google weren't such an idealist company, I wouldn't be surprised to see "Google NSA" on their labs page.

Thank you NSA!!! (1)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502487)

Finally something that might actually kill off all those lame bebo sites.

I want to see a contest. (2, Interesting)

unsigned integer (721338) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502495)

About who can fake the NSA out. Using webrings, postings, blog articles, code words, etc.

I want it all to point to some abandoned house that's supposedly a terrorist cell.

I want a webcam and computer to snap a picture of NSA agents busting in, and then print
them out a little message :

"Stop domestic spying. Stop hurting America with your un-American actions. Stand up. Do
something. Speak out."

It's public info, what do you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502505)

I mean, seriously, you are posting all of your dirty laundry out in public, where anyone can read it - don't even pretend you have any thinking whatsoever that you have any privacy when you post there.

So, don't be too upset when your grandma (or the NSA) finds your risque pictures of yourself that you posted for only your "friends" to see on a public website (unless you really think you are friends with the potential billions of people who are reading it - then you have even bigger issues. ;-) )

Fight. (1)

fuzzyfozzie (978329) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502514)

If they want information, they're going to have to work for it. We have to stand up for our rights and show the government that we're not just goint to sit by while this happens. Make fake accounts, post anonymously, and more than anything else, get the information out that this is happening. People have to be told -- if you're a big MySpace person, send out announcements to all your friends. Tell everyone, send letters, and create new communities that stress encryption and privacy.
They can kill the revolutionary but not the revolution.
If we stand on the side and allow this to happen in ten years the internet will be controlled by the political leaders. We have to fight to stop this. There is no other choice.

Free country eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15502529)

It's stupid to keep acting suprised about this stuff. You still want a free country? It's pretty clear that the us govt. is going to know everything it can about all of us, no matter what the constitutional ramifications. Some folk may abuse it less than others, but with that much consolidated power human nature dictates that things will gradually get more and more corrupt to the detriment of all our freedom. We really need to push for a government that has no more privacy or secrets than we do.

please stop the terrorists! (1)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502565)

How do you think they found Zarqawi?

Little known fact: he posted a bulletin on his Myspace page inviting his friends over for a barbeque.
Even provided a link to google maps so they could find his place.

Next they're going to look at his top 8 to crack down on the rest of Al Quaeda.
It's only a matter of time before the war on terror is over, thanks to this datamining of Myspace.

Of Course (1)

donaldlatif (543636) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502572)

Every time you hear some news about what the NSA is "thinking about doing", you can rest assured that they already did it, last year.

Man, today is just a bad news day. (1)

RoffleTheWaffle (916980) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502577)

First Internet Neutrality gets the boot, and now we learn the folks from the NSA are doing their level best to psychologically profile anyone and everyone who makes any information public or exchanges any information online... This just doesn't sound good at all. This makes an encrypted public mesh network seem that much more appealing now. Say, why don't we all snag some $100 Laptops? Only $130 each, wireless mesh capability included.

I have to wonder what having a massive databank of emo kid profiles is going to do for the security of this country, though. I mean, come on. MySpace? Livejournal? Xanga? The whole system is going to become so bogged down with emo kids and goth-tards it'll hang itself out of spite. What are these kids going to do, anyway? Cause a rash of suicides from viral depression caused by their own overblown self-loathing in an attempt to garner attention? Wait, shit, that really is scary. Now I'm almost glad the NSA is doing this. Not only would all the emo kids vanish, depriving me of a massive source of entertainment, but they'd take half the world with them - either because they'd make everyone else feel as bad as they do, or through their incessant bitching compell their unfortunate victims to slay themselves to escape the whining, terrifying hair-dos, and crappy punk music.

What about friends who post your information? (2, Insightful)

retcon (981235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502594)

Yes, since people voluntarily place their information on these networks, that attenuates the indignation at this government data collection a bit. BUT, what about information that's put up there involuntarily? Ex: I have a facebook account (sorry), but at the least I wanted to keep a picture myself off it. But soon after, Facebook added the feature to tag pictures with the names of the people in it, and given enough data sets, an algorithm to identify myself in newer pictures! Pictures of myself popped up, appropriately tagged, shortly thereafter. I could de-tag myself on every picture, and ask each of my friends to stop, but such palliative measures are futile on the Internet...once the data's out, it's out!

Can you spell... (0)

MECC (8478) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502600)

McCarthyism [wikipedia.org]

I for one ... (2, Funny)

srobert (4099) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502624)

...welcome our neocon overlords.

Why is this a big thing? (3, Interesting)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502633)

People to look at information posted on social networking sites. Well, duh.

Seriously, the issue is not the NSA is doing this. The issue is the NSA appears to be doing this from publically available information. Or, as the first line of the article puts it:

"I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves." So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software.

Monkey see, monkey do (1)

BobSutan (467781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15502634)

(Nelson) Haha! (/Nelson)

Its bad enough we have pedos and all sorts of unsavory people browsing myspace looking for people to exploit. Now the government wants in on the action too.

ZING!
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