The Worst Trolls On The Internet Are The Government Trolls

The American Dream
by Michael Snyder

Troll Warning - Photo by GilWe have all run into them.  All over the Internet, there are horrible trolls that seem to delight in making life miserable for other people.  But the worst trolls of all are the government trolls.  And thanks to Edward Snowden, we now have some startling new evidence of what really goes on behind the scenes.  According to newly revealed documents, British spy agency GCHQ is manipulating online discussions, infiltrating the computers of specific targets, purposely destroying reputations, altering the results of online polls, and using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for propaganda and espionage purposes.  If people don’t start getting outraged about this now, the governments of the western world are going to see it as a green light to do even more.  Eventually, it might get so bad that we won’t be able to trust much of anything that we see on the Internet.

There is a lot about the Internet that is really awful, but one great thing about it is the fact that it has allowed average individuals to communicate on a mass scale unlike ever before.  As the general population has become aware of how powerful of a tool the Internet can be, the elite have become extremely alarmed.  Unlike so many other things in our society, it has not been something that they have been able to easily control.

But the elite have been starting to catch up to all of this new technology and are learning how to use it for their own purposes.  Thanks to Snowden, we now have a list of specific tools that GCHQ has been using to manipulate the Internet.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent ZDNet article about these new revelations…

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A number of interesting tools and their short descriptions are below:

  • ASTRAL PROJECTION: Remote GSM secure covert Internet proxy using TOR hidden service
  • POISON ARROW: Safe malware download capability
  • AIRWOLF: YouTube profile, comment and video collection
  • BIRDSTRIKE: Twitter monitoring and profile collection
  • GLASSBACK: Technique of getting a target’s IP address by pretending to be a spammer and ringing them. Target does not need to answer.
  • MINIATURE HERO: Active skype capability. Provision of realtime call records (SkypeOut and SkypetoSkype) and bidirectional instant messaging. Also contact lists.
  • PHOTON TORPEDO: A technique to actively grab the IP address of MSN messenger user
  • SPRING-BISHOP: Finding private photos of targets on Facebook
  • BOMB BAY: The capacity to increase website hits, rankings
  • BURLESQUE: The capacity to send spoofed SMS messages
  • GESTATOR: Amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (YouTube)
  • SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE: Perfect spoofing of emails from Blackberry targets
  • SUNBLOCK: Ability to deny functionality to send/receive email or view material online
  • SWAMP DONKEY: A tool that will silently locate all predefined types of file and encrypt them on a targets machine
  • UNDERPASS: Change outcome of online polls (previously known as NUBILO).
  • WARPATH: Mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign.
  • HUSK: Secure one-on-one web based dead-drop messaging platform.

The list, dated from 2012, says that most of the tools are “fully operational, tested and reliable,” and adds: “Don’t treat this like a catalogue. If you don’t see it here, it doesn’t mean we can’t build it.”

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If we are going to have a free and open society, then we simply cannot have the governments of the western world running around systematically manipulating the Internet for their own purposes.

And of course it is not just the British that are doing this kind of thing.

Just recently, for example, the U.S. was caught manipulating discourse on Reddit and editing Wikipedia.

The rest of the world is watching all of this and they are absolutely disgusted with us.  The more that we act like Nazis, the more they are going to regard us as such.

At this point, even our closest friends are loudly denouncing us.  Germany just caught one U.S. spy, and a German newspaper claims that there are “dozens” of other CIA-recruited spies working in German ministries.

And the Germans have become so paranoid about the NSA spying on them that the German government is actually considering going back to using typewriters

Germany may go old school to guard against spying.

The German government will continue to use encrypted e-mails and phones, but it could also expand its use of typewriters, said Patrick Sensburg, the head of the German parliament’s investigation into U.S. spying, in an interview with German TV station ARD Monday, Reuters reports.

The Germans are even considering using non-electronic typewriters, Sensburg said.

Why we would spy on our closest friends is something that I will never understand.  And if we keep this up, soon we will not have any friends left at all.

Fortunately, an increasing number of Americans are becoming fed up with the growing tyranny all around us.  I love how John W. Whitehead expressed his frustrations in his recent article about the emerging police state in America…

I don’t like being subjected to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA. I don’t like VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes. I don’t like fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement.

I don’t like laws that criminalize Americans for otherwise lawful activities such as holding religious studies at home, growing vegetables in their yard, and collecting rainwater. I don’t like the NDAA, which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely. I don’t like the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

I don’t like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has become America’s standing army. I don’t like military weapons such as armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like being used against the American citizens. I don’t like government agencies such as the DHS, Post Office, Social Security Administration and Wildlife stocking up on hollow-point bullets. And I definitely don’t like the implications of detention centers being built that could house American citizens.

The people of the western world need to stand up and say enough is enough.

Are we going to stay silent as the integrity of the Internet is destroyed?

Are we going to stay silent while the Internet is transformed into a government propaganda tool?

Are we going to stay silent while the liberties and freedoms that we have left are systematically shredded?

If you do not like the direction that all of this is going, now is the time to let your voice be heard.

The American Dream

U.S. Military Funds Studies on How to Influence Social Media Use

facebook

The New American
by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

The military is turning social media into a laboratory for its thought and emotion control experiments — experiments forcibly funded by the American taxpayer.

In an article published July 8, the Guardian reports:

The activities of users of Twitter and other social media services were recorded and analysed as part of a major project funded by the US military, in a program that covers ground similar to Facebook’s controversial experiment into how to control emotions by manipulating news feeds.

Research funded directly or indirectly by the US Department of Defense’s military research department, known as Darpa, has involved users of some of the internet’s largest destinations, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Kickstarter, for studies of social connections and how messages spread.

For years, this reporter has covered the various projects carried out by DARPA, including a $30 million program to implant veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with small electronic sensors that will map their brains.

As part of its investigation of how to manipulate the behavior — online and off — of social media users, the military is collecting innumerable tweets, Facebook status updates, and other messages posted on various platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

The Pentagon’s plan to convert the Internet into its own personal workshop is ironic given the fact that it actually created Arpanet, the precursor to the platform known today as the Internet.

On the page of the DARPA website devoted to presenting papers and studies related to its “Social Media in Strategic Communication” program, the research and development group claims that the purpose of the project is “to develop tools to support the efforts of human operators to counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information.”

Truthful information? The Guardian cities recent reports countering that claim:

Papers leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that US and British intelligence agencies have been deeply engaged in planning ways to covertly use social media for purposes of propaganda and deception.

Documents prepared by NSA and Britain’s GCHQ (and previously published by the Intercept as well as NBC News) revealed aspects of some of these programs. They included a unit engaged in “discrediting” the agency’s enemies with false information spread online.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press also revealed the clandestine creation by USAid of a Twitter-like, Cuban communications network to undermine the Havana government.

The network, built with secret shell companies and financed through a foreign bank, lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers. It sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the internet with a primitive social media platform.

Just days ago, The New American reported on the Defense Department’s role in providing funding for a Facebook study aimed at measuring the ability to affect the emotions of users by controlling the stories that appear on their news feed.

The Guardian, in its exposé of the U.S. military’s role as financier of secret social media manipulation experiments, lists several such grants, including those awarded to the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, and Georgia Tech.

Although the academics and scientists running the laboratories conducting the military-funded experiments claim that their purpose is simply to observe and report online activity, the Guardian lays out a more sinister goal of the government’s generous grant giving:

Several of the DoD-funded projects went further than simple observation, instead engaging directly with social media users and analysing their responses.

One of multiple studies looking into how to spread messages on the networks, titled “Who Will Retweet This? Automatically Identifying and Engaging Strangers on Twitter to Spread Information” did just this.

The researchers explained: “Since everyone is potentially an influencer on social media and is capable of spreading information, our work aims to identify and engage the right people at the right time on social media to help propagate information when needed.”

In the paper, which included data gathered through actively engaging 3,761 people on Twitter around the topics of public safety and bird flu, the researchers added: “Unlike existing work, which often uses only social network properties, our feature set includes personality traits that may influence one’s retweeting behaviour.” [British standard spelling retained in the quotations from the Guardian]

The relevant question is whether the Pentagon is measuring behavior or manipulating it. If the latter, then it seems likely that the ultimate aim could be the identification of those social media users whose online activity marks them as potential muckrakers.

The New American

What Your “Startlingly Intimate, Voyeristic” NSA File Looks Like

Zero Hedge

A few days ago, we asked a simple rhetorical question: “Are you targeted by the NSA?

The answer, sadly for those reading this, is very likely yes, as it was revealed that as part of the NSA’s XKeyscore program “a computer network exploitation system, as described in an NSA presentation, devoted to gathering nearly everything a user does on the internet” all it takes for a user to be flagged by America’s superspooks is to go to a website the NSA finds less than “patriotic” and that user becomes a fixture for the NSA’s tracking algos.

So assuming one is being tracked by the NSA – or as it is also known for politically correct reasons “intercepted” – as a “person of interest” or worse, just what kind of data does the NSA collect? The latest report by the WaPo titled “In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are” sheds much needed light on just how extensive the NSA’s data collection effort is.

According to WaPo, the files on intercepted Americans “have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.”

The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

Remember when the NSA said they only target foreigners, and only those who are of particular actionable interest? They lied.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

 

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.

Going back to “your” file:

Taken together, the files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge. One program, code-named PRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks.

It gets worse, because that bed-wetting habit you kicked in the 2nd grade? The NSA knows all about it.

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

 

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

How many Americans may be tracked by the NSA at any one time? Turns out ther answer is lots:

The Obama administration declines to discuss the scale of incidental collection. The NSA, backed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., has asserted that it is unable to make any estimate, even in classified form, of the number of Americans swept in. It is not obvious why the NSA could not offer at least a partial count, given that its analysts routinely pick out “U.S. persons” and mask their identities, in most cases, before distributing intelligence reports.

 

If Snowden’s sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested. In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.

And tangentially, for those who are urging the NSA to release Lois Lerner’s emails, all it would take are a few keystrokes:

If I had wanted to pull a copy of a judge’s or a senator’s e-mail, all I had to do was enter that selector into XKEYSCORE,” one of the NSA’s main query systems, [Edward Snowden] said.

What the file would likely reveal is all the dirt the US intelligence apparatus had on said (Supreme Court) judge or senator, or IRS employee. After all, what better way to keep the system of “checks and balances” in check than to have dirt on all the key places of leverage.

The WaPo has released a sterilized example of what a “target package” looks like for any given individual.

All of the above would be stunning… if it wasn’t for a culture in which FaceBook has made the exhibitionist stripping of one’s privacy and disclosure of every last piece of “intimate” personal information a daily chore. It is in this world, sadly, where the most recent confirmation of just how expansive Big Brother is, will merely be granted with a yawn by the vast majority of the population.

Finally, here’s a thought for the cash-strapped US government: when the Fed is no longer able to monetize the US deficit, the NSA can just hire Goldman to IPO the NSA “social network.” It should raise at least a few hundred billion in cash.

Zero Hedge

The Pentagon Wants You to Spend Lots of Time on Facebook

facebook

The New American
by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

While Cornell University continues denying that it received any money from the Pentagon to pay for its study of emotional manipulation on Facebook, turns out that it is taking Defense Department dollars to conduct similar studies. 

According to a story published online by The Atlantic, the Pentagon is paying Cornell researchers to conduct “analysis of social network posts for “sentiment,” i.e. how people are feeling, in the hopes of identifying social “tipping points.”

The list of “tipping points” on the website for the Pentagon’s Minerva Initiative includes “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Why is the military so interested in identifying these tipping points? The Minerva Initiative website offers this explanation:

The Department of Defense is interested in innovative frameworks and new data that may assist policymakers in developing improved methods for anticipating and identifying potential areas of unrest, instability, and conflict. Insights may inform strategic thinking about resource allocation for defense efforts and humanitarian aid as well as insights for national policy and engagement with both state and non-state actors….

For those unfamiliar with the globalist jargon, “non-state actors” are individuals and groups not associated with official governments. In other words: you and I.

It isn’t difficult to see how the Defense Department would be able to target potential rebels for special social media surveillance. How often have you posted anti-administration memes or messages to your various social media accounts? If you have, then you are now a non-state actor that could be identified as a “potential area of unrest, instability, and conflict.”

Congratulations.

A quick review of the information available on that website reveals a chilling effort by the U.S. military to learn precise methods of using social media to manipulate the emotions of people around the world, knowing just when to deploy troops to quell potential uprisings.

For example, the military wants scientists to study “group identifiers” that will help it learn when users might move from simple belief in something to mobilizing in defense of that thing.

Another current study funded by the military as part of its Minerva Initiative looks at what social media posts can reveal about a person’s stability and resistance to rebellion.

There is even an element of the study that highlights the ways international armed forces might be used to deter civil unrest. Under the section marked “Beyond conventional deterrence,” the Minerva Initiative website explains, “The objective of this research track is to offer new theories, models, and approaches to escalation and deterrence theory that incorporate strategic behavior among international actors across new and traditional geographic domains.”

In other words, if the military determines that a rebellion is growing beyond its ability to contain, it will have information on how to use “international actors” in the armed quashing of the disturbance.

Despite the discovery of these Manchurian Candidate-style Defense Department-funded Facebook experiments, users don’t seem to be fleeing from the social media behemoth. The latest data show that Facebook has over 1.23 billion monthly active users, 945 million mobile users, and 757 million daily users. That’s a huge number of potential subjects.

Just how badly does the military want to keep you in that pool of involuntary participants in psychological studies? The Atlantic reports:

Defense One recently caught up with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who said the U.S. military has “completely revamped” the way it collects intelligence around the existence of large, openly available data sources and especially social media like Facebook. “The information that we’re able to extract form social media—it’s giving us insights that frankly we never had before,” he said.

In other words, the head of one of the biggest U.S. military intelligence agencies needs you on Facebook.

“Just over a decade ago, when I was a senior intelligence officer, I spent most of my time in the world of ‘ints’—signals intelligence imagery, human intelligence—and used just a little bit of open-source information to enrich the assessments that we made. Fast forward to 2014 and the explosion of the information environment in just the last few years alone. Open-source now is a place I spend most of my time. The open world of information provides us most of what we need and the ‘ints’ of old, they enrich the assessments that we’re able to make from open-source information.”

How much of the money “legally” plundered from American taxpayers is funneled into university coffers to pay for this creepy research? Again, from The Atlantic, “The military will be spending an increasing amount of the $50 billion intelligence budget on private contractors to perform open-source intelligence gathering and analysis, according to Flynn. That’s evidenced by the rise in companies eager to provide those services.”

Finally, lest you think by getting off Facebook and Twitter you are safe from being unwittingly recruited into one of these experiments, consider this additional information in The Atlantic story:

Many of the groups doing this sort of work on behalf of the government are small outfits you probably have never heard of. And ideally, you never would.

One of them is a company out of Austin, Texas, called SnapTrends, founded in 2012. They provide a “social listening” service that analyzes posts to provide insights about the circumstances of the poster, one of the most important of which is the poster’s location. The company uses cell tower density, social network knowhow, and various other elements to figure out who is posting what and where. Are you someone who refuses to geo-tag your tweets out of concerns for privacy? Do you turn off your phone’s GPS receiving capability to stay under the proverbial radar? It doesn’t matter to SnapTrends.

Besides, given the never-ending supply of funds being plundered from the American people to pay for these studies, any mass defection from Facebook or Twitter to some other platform would just signal to the military where to find the next group of guinea pigs.

The New American

Facebook App Adds Yet Another Powerful Tracking Feature

facebook

The New American
by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

Facebook has updated its mobile platform to include an ambient proximity tool called Nearby Friends. The tech blog Techcrunch describes the new feature:

It lets you constantly share the current neighborhood where you are and the approximate distance between you and your friends or whoever you authorize. It also lets you share your exact, real-time location with specific friends for a few hours or indefinitely. The feature is designed to make it easy to meet up with friends.

Real-time location tracking? No wonder Techcrunch adds that the new service “has major privacy implications.” 

In Facebook’s defense, the location tracking feature is “opt in,” meaning that users will have to activate the service, rather than having to deactivate the service if they didn’t want their location revealed.

This policy decision is likely the result of a penalty imposed in 2011 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that requires the social media mammoth to submit to 20 years of privacy audits conducted by the agency. Another provision of the penalty mandates that any new features offered by Facebook must be “opt in.”

Opt-in or not, Facebook’s mobile app (available on both Android and iOS platforms) is becoming a powerful, portable monitoring tool.

As The New American reported late last month:

A recent “improvement” to the Facebook mobile app is being praised by tech bloggers, but it seems the bigger, more sinister side of the upgrade is being ignored.

In the “coming weeks,” the social media behemoth will roll out a service that, according to an announcement on its blog, will give users “the option to use your phone’s microphone to identify what song is playing or what show or movie is on TV.”

That means if you want to share that you’re listening to your favorite Beyoncé track or watching the season premiere of Game of Thrones, you can do it quickly and easily, without typing.

Certainly, as the company claims, that is a handy little tool for recording the sounds entering into a smartphone’s microphone with nearly no human interaction required.

There is something disturbing in the potential uses of this option, however. The frightening application of the app is, accidentally it seems, explained in a Huffington Post article promoting the technology: “Facebook Can Now Listen To Everything You Listen To.”

Since implementing the ambient sound recognition feature, Facebook has seen a significant backlash from users wary of having such a powerful surveillance system in their pocket.

This reporter wrote last week:

An Australian news site reports that “the feature has sparked an online backlash, with users mobilising in an effort to get the social media giant to kill off the development.” The petition has over half a million signatures as of press time.

“Facebook just announced a new feature to its app, which will let it listen to our conversations and surroundings through our own phones’ microphone. Talk about a Big Brother move,” the petition reads.

There are hundreds of thousands of Facebook users who fortunately recognize that the ostensible upside of having the social media app scan and record sounds so that you don’t miss out on knowing who sings that catchy song on that commercial you just watched is more than offset by the eery side effect of having all your conversations sucked up and stored somewhere.

“Tell Facebook not to release its creepy and dangerous new app feature that listens to users’ surroundings and conversations,” the petition urges. “Facebook says it’ll be responsible with this feature, but we know we can’t trust it.”

Whether any of the company’s reported 874 million mobile users will similarly resist the location tracking technology that is now part of the ubiquitous app remains to be seen.

One part of the Nearby Friends feature records a user’s Location History, which saves a master list of all the places visited by the user when he’s carrying his smartphone loaded with the app. Facebook records the user’s search history, as well.

Taken together, Facebook is a powerful and pernicious surveillance tool. If that tool was used by a person or group with a nefarious purpose, there is little of an individual’s private information that is not known or knowable.

Facebook has not revealed the number of users that have opted in to the Nearby Friends feature. In reality, though, that is hardly relevant.

A far more important question is how much privacy people are willing to surrender in order to post pictures of grumpy cats and see pictures of their friends’ food. 

While history will one day reveal that answer, what is already known is that the world is becoming a global Panopticon where every call, every text, every e-mail, every online message, and every movement is coming under the all-seeing eye of some private or government entity and being recorded on massive servers.

A question that Facebook and all other such social media sites must eventually answer is who has access to the data it sees and stores.

Last year, for example, government agencies — including federal, state, and local authorities — requested user data on between 18,000 and 19,000 account holders.

The remarkable disclosure of government requests for users’ private information follows successful negotiations between Facebook and other tech giants and the federal government.

Beginning last year, Facebook, Google, and other technology companies who were implicated in the revelations of the NSA’s PRISM program have petitioned the feds to allow them to disclose their level of participation in surveillance requests received from government entities.

Under PRISM, the NSA and the FBI are “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time,” as reported by the Washington Post.

The joint venture has been functioning since 2007, but came to light only in a PowerPoint presentation that was part of the cache of documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden claimed that the program was so invasive that “They [the NSA and the FBI] quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”

According to the information Snowden released, Facebook routinely grants the federal government access to the private information of millions of users.

That is not to say that Facebook is a middle man for the federal surveillance apparatus — the NSA — but all users are right to demand transparency in Facebook’s transfer to anyone of any of their private location, conversation, and search history.

The New American

How the NSA & FBI made Facebook the perfect mass surveillance tool

InfoWars
by Harrison Weber

facebookscreen

The National Security Agency and the FBI teamed up in October 2010 to develop techniques for turning Facebook into a surveillance tool.

Documents released alongside security journalist Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place To Hide,” reveal the NSA and FBI partnership, in which the two agencies developed techniques for exploiting Facebook chats, capturing private photos, collecting IP addresses, and gathering private profile data.

According to the slides below, the agencies’ goal for such collection was to capture “a very rich source of information on targets,” including “personal details, ‘pattern of life,’ connections to associates, [and] media.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 8.56.48 AM

NSA documents make painfully clear how the agencies collected information “by exploiting inherent weaknesses in Facebook’s security model” through its use of the popular Akamai content delivery network. The NSA describes its methods as “assumed authentication,” and “security through obscurity.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 8.57.21 AM

The slide below shows how the NSA and U.K. spy agency GCHQ also worked together to “obtain profile and album images.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 8.58.03 AM

Two months ago, following a series of Facebook-related NSA spying leaks, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg stated in a blog post that he’s “confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government.”

According to a report by The Intercept, the above slides do not reveal the NSA’s Facebook surveillance program in full. The report states that the NSA also “disguises itself as a fake Facebook server” to perform “man-in-the-middle” and “man-on-the-side” attacks and spread malware [below].

As we wrote at the time, the “NSA’s Facebook targeting is reportedly a response to the declining success of other malware injection techniques. Previous techniques included the use of “spam emails that trick targets into clicking a malicious link.”

Following the report, released in March, Zuckerberg said, “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

Zuckerberg claimed he disapproved of the NSA’s actions and said that he’s spoken to president Barack Obama by phone to “express [his] frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future.”

VentureBeat has reached out to both Akamai and Facebook for comment on the matter.

Via VentureBeat

Facebook Facial Recognition Software Has Almost Human Accuracy

The New American
by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

Facebook may soon possess the power to match faces to users with almost human-like accuracy.

According to the social-media giant, sophisticated facial recognition software is currently being tested that would employ 3D face modeling to render with a 97.25 percent success rate what it calls “Labeled Faces in the Wild”; in other words — you.

Using a “nine-layer deep neural network,” the software known as DeepFace uses “more than 120 million parameters” to recreate the user’s face and then scans millions of photos to match the face to the person.

A Forbes article on a story published in the MIT TechnologyReview.com, reports, “DeepFace uses a 3D model for rotating faces virtually so that the person in the photo appears to be looking at the camera. The angle of the face is corrected by using a 3D model of an ‘average’ forward-looking face.”

Forbes adds, “The DeepFace algorithms have also been successfully tested for facial verification within YouTube videos” and that the technology could “improve Facebook’s ability to suggest users for tagging in an uploaded photo and for other potential purposes.”

Although this program is still being tested (Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Group will present their findings at a conference in June), the prospects of these “other potential purposes” should frighten the 1.3 billion active monthly users of the site.

Particularly as Facebook isn’t known for more than token resistance to cooperating with the federal government’s quest to put everyone under the National Security Agency’s never-blinking eye.

According to a statement posted on the company’s website last June, government agencies — including federal, state, and local authorities — requested user data on between 18,000 and 19,000 account holders.

Following the negotiations in 2013 that opened the way for Facebook to report its cooperation with requests to hand over user information, Microsoft made a similar surveillance disclosure. A blog post on the Redmond, Washington-based company’s website declared:

For the six months ended December 31, 2012, Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities (including local, state and federal).

Altogether, that means the accounts of approximately 50,000 Americans — accounts they believed were secure — were laid open to the eyes of government agents.

These revelations may be nothing more than cover fire to distract users from the collusion of these corporations with the NSA as disclosed by NSA whistleblower and former NSA subcontractor, Edward Snowden.

Under the PRISM data-gathering program, the NSA and the FBI are “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time,” as reported by the Washington Post.

The joint venture has been functioning since 2007, but came to light only in a PowerPoint presentation that was part of the cache of documents leaked by Snowden.

Snowden claimed that the program was so invasive that “They [the NSA and the FBI] quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”

According to the information Snowden released, two of the tech companies that disclosed government surveillance requests  — Facebook and Microsoft — were giving the government access to the private information of millions of users.

They were not alone, however. Yahoo, Google, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple all allowed the agents of the federal surveillance state to secretly snoop on their users.

The New American has reported on the story in detail:

PRISM works in conjunction with another top-secret program, called BLARNEY, which, according to the program’s summary, “leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

PRISM allows the NSA to enter a company’s data stream and extract communications by keying in “selectors” or search items. The agency is mandated by law to conduct surveillance only on foreign operations within the United States, but the selectors are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in the “foreignness” of the data it collects, meaning it could be intercepting wholly domestic communications nearly half of the time. Training materials instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report. But the training instructions also tell the analysts that “it’s nothing to worry about,” the Post said.

Possible details of just how the data flow were recently laid out in a report published online last summer.

Tech news website Mashable examined “press reports, the companies’ statements and what the Director of National Intelligence has disclosed” to figure out how PRISM functions. After its investigation, Mashable reckons that PRISM is “probably more like a data ingestion API [application programming interface — the way software components interact] system that allows for streamlined processing of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests. And Google revealed to Wired that its secret system to siphon data to the NSA was nothing more than a secure FTP [File Transfer Protocol].”

Nothing more than a pipe running from Google, whose online and mobile services are nearly ubiquitous, to the federal government’s shadowy surveillance corps.

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation coming from the Snowden leaks about the NSA is the fact that it confirms that the government and their corporate partners consider the protections of the Fourth Amendment to be nothing more than a “parchment barrier” that is easily torn through. Now that the Constitution is regarded by the federal government as advisory at best, there is nothing standing between Americans and the construction of a domestic 21st century Panopticon.

In this country, then, every citizen is now a suspect, and the scope of the surveillance is being expanded to likely place every word, every movement, every text, every conversation, every e-mail, and every social media subject to monitoring by the federal domestic spying apparatus.

Imagine the increase of that capacity if a major player such as Facebook successfully deploys software that can almost perfectly match all the millions of photos saved on its servers to a name. Facebook would become a sort of virtual real-time resource for those who would be interested in compiling caches of personal data on everybody in the world.

Add that to the story The New American reported in December 2013 that revealed that an elite team of hackers employed by the FBI had developed an application that turns on built-in laptop cameras. According to details provided in a Washington Post article, the software can be turned on remotely by the g-men and perhaps most notably, the little green light that typically signals a “live” camera is not illuminated when this application is in use.

In his defense, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg did call President Obama to complain about the government’s ham-fisted treatment of the Internet.

“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform,” Zuckerberg writes in a blog post.

“The internet is our shared space. It helps us connect. It spreads opportunity,” he added. “This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

That all sounds very good, but the fact remains that Facebook has handed over access to user data to the federal government and the company is now near completion of a facial recognition tool that will give it nearly perfect perception. 

The New American