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Facebook and the CIA

stryker

TRIBE Member
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10456534&pnum=0

Facebook - the CIA conspiracy
3:09PM Wednesday August 08, 2007
By Matt Greenop


American Dad's conspiracy coverage could benefit from a flick through the Facebook.
Facebook has 20 million users worldwide, is worth billions of dollars and, if internet sources are to be believed, was started by the CIA.

The social networking phenomenon started as a way of American college students to keep in touch. It is rapidly catching up with MySpace, and has left others like Bebo in its wake.

But there is a dark side to the success story that's been spreading across the blogosphere. A complex but riveting Big Brother-type conspiracy theory which links Facebook to the CIA and the US Department of Defence.

The CIA is, though, using a Facebook group to recruit staff for its very sexy sounding National Clandestine Service.

Checking out the job ads
does require a Facebook login, so if you haven't joined the site - or are worried that CIA spooks will start following you home from work -check them out on the agency's own site.


The story starts once Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had launched, after the dorm room drama that's led to the current court case.

Facebook's first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome 'The Diversity Myth', he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company's key areas of expertise are in "data mining technologies".

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.

Dr Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel's board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.

She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

It was when a journalist lifted the lid on the DARPA's
Information Awareness Office that the public began to show concern at its information mining projects.

Wikipedia's IAO page says: "the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralised location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.".

Not surprisingly, the backlash from civil libertarians led to a Congressional investigation into DARPA's activity, the Information Awareness Office lost its funding.

Now the internet conspiracy theorists are citing Facebook as the IAO's new mask.

Parts of the IAO's technology round-up included 'human network analysis and behaviour model building engines', which Facebook's massive volume of neatly-targeted data gathering allows for.

Facebook's own Terms of use state: "by posting Member Content to any part of the Web site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorpoate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorise sublicenses of the foregoing.

And in its equally interesting privacy policy: "Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg. photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience. By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States."

Is the CIA really providing the impetus and the funding behind the monster growth of this year's biggest dot com success story? Maybe only the men with the nice suits and ear pieces can answer that.
 
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Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
The day they want to interrogate me they'll pull out my dossier and be like

"So. You like posing with animals, and the CBC. This proves you're a terrorist."
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
stryker said:
Is the CIA really providing the impetus and the funding behind the monster growth of this year's biggest dot com success story? Maybe only the men with the nice suits and ear pieces can answer that.

Well I think this ascribes a bit too much power to an agency that has shown plenty of capacity for f*ck-ups and oversight and myopia. There's an oft-repeated canard out there that the CIA - since it was heavily involved in LSD research and used it in a few isolated covert ops (and since Timothy Leary had some connection to work with the Agency during that time) - that the counter-culture of the 60s was "started" by the CIA because all of a sudden, all this acid hit the streets... Another variation is that they "flooded the streets" with LSD in order to co-opt/weaken the "movement"...

Well I tell you what, the CIA didn't "flood the streets" with LSD - that was a social phenomenon. Kids were brewing it using university equipment on campus, or making it in their bathtubs. Organized crime got involved because of the profits. It got "street cred" - not through CIA machinations - but through an organic, naturally occuring shift in social outlook among the younger generation, for whom acid represented a gateway to "cool" and maybe even transcendant, world-changing undestanding...

There may very well be information collection aspects of facebook that involve the CIA - but the last line of the article has it wrong. Facebook is too big for its success to be measured merely by dint of its still-cloudy CIA connections, it - like acid - represents a naturally-occuring "moment" in our social history, whereby individuals of their own accord decided to join for particular social reasons of the time. If it really is tied into information collection, then the CIA is just really lucky that they happened to be involved with a project that took off for reasons entirely distinct from CIA operations.

And as to the information they are collecting, if they really care what my favourite books are, then they have way too much time on their hands. Don't get me wrong, I think privacy concerns are legimitate things to worry about and this should be investigated further, but we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that the CIA is all powerful or influential enough to really create the kind of runaway social success of things like LSD use or Facebook.

I guess with all the high-tech imagery out there and shows like Alias or 24 or even CSI that we tend to be credulous when claims are made of near-omnipotence for agencies like the CIA or organizations like the US military (the "Top Gun" effect)....
 
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wickedken

TRIBE Member
See, the thing is that there never is really any privacy on the Internet. Because everything moves around in wires, and there is -- and has been for a long time -- technology to know what is floating around ("deep packet inspection"), anything that is out there is known.

It would make sense for an American intelligence agency to monitor universities for "radical" people and associations, but even if they are not now the people in charge, because the information exists in such a connected state, these agencies now have the biggest data warehouse that has ever existed.

Who you know. Who you work for. Who you communicate with. What you see. Who you date. Where you want to go. How much money you make. If you like techo. If you like tentacles.

This is just data mining. The same technology that delivers demographic driven catelogues to your mailbox is being used to make associations and predict patterns. Facebook was just one of many tools to create these little bits of data.
 

gsnuff

TRIBE Promoter
praktik said:
I guess with all the high-tech imagery out there and shows like Alias or 24 or even CSI that we tend to be credulous when claims are made of near-omnipotence for agencies like the CIA or organizations like the US military (the "Top Gun" effect)....

Well said. The information exchanged on facebook is completely useless for intelligence purposes anyways, you could loosely monitor large swaths of college students, play "flagged word" bingo, and just studying networkism in general.. but really, infilitrating choice activist groups would be time and money better spent. Monitoring banking transactions and email exchanges (which already do occur) would prove fare more useful. Hell, even keeping tabs on youtube would probably be more fruitful.

The greatest myth propogated by conspiracy theorists is that the majority of our lives are interesting enough to warrant attention, you know beyond the normal demographic monitoring.

Semi-related and actually true.

edit: wikedken is on the money as well!
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
gsnuff said:
Well said. The information exchanged on facebook is completely useless for intelligence purposes anyways, you could loosely monitor large swaths of college students, play "flagged word" bingo, and just studying networkism in general.. but really, infilitrating choice activist groups would be time and money better spent. Monitoring banking transactions and email exchanges (which already do occur) would prove fare more useful. Hell, even keeping tabs on youtube would probably be more fruitful.
I tend to agree with most of praktik's comments as well, however I think there is a distinction to be made between monitoring banking activity and monitoring virtual social networks. Infiltration of these two different kinds of systems could have very different objectives, so the value gained in an analysis of Facebook through covert means might prove to be useful after all.

But, like you mentioned, I would couch all of that self-important meaning in the irrelevance of our own existence ... probably like you, I'm a big cynic.

wickedken said:
See, the thing is that there never is really any privacy on the Internet. Because everything moves around in wires, and there is -- and has been for a long time -- technology to know what is floating around ("deep packet inspection"), anything that is out there is known.
I totally disagree here. Deep packet inspection "ain't got nothin'" on various forms of cryptographic virtual networks, hell, even a simple 128 bit cypher is hard to break (unless you're still using DES and believe the S-box theories).

I like what you had to say following that first paragraph though; there are some interesting philosophical implications to the sheer volume of information we are accumulating: it has some interesting positive-feedback qualities on technology and culture. We have absurdly stupid amounts of information, but seemingly less insight about all of it. This is a natural product of technological innovation, but now we're shifting focus on the information itself as a problem to overcome (it used to be that we had a problem gathering information ... now, it's all too easy). Data Mining is just one of many new "catch phrases" that get thrown around in Universities and business these days, describing the attempts we are now making to classify and understand the data. To turn it into something useful.


Back to praktik...

praktik said:
Facebook is too big for its success to be measured merely by dint of its still-cloudy CIA connections, it - like acid - represents a naturally-occuring "moment" in our social history, whereby individuals of their own accord decided to join for particular social reasons of the time.
This is a really important point -- I would never want to overshadow a social phenomenon (maybe a kind of social revolution, or the etchings or the threads of one) by the inevitable shadow of corruption and whatever other moral dilemmas every innocent-idea-turned-something-legitimate is subject to.

I'm fairly certain gsnuff has his "ear to the ground" on these things, but the direction that I hope this all tends toward is the construction and legitimization of an "iDentity" that represents every one of us, with "views" of that identity which we define and control, exposures that permit other applications (like Facebook, MSN, Tribe, government websites, consumer websites, your car, your home, etc) to interact with "you".

This is really a very fascinating subject!
 
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Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
gsnuff said:
The greatest myth propogated by conspiracy theorists is that the majority of our lives are interesting enough to warrant attention, you know beyond the normal demographic monitoring.

The conspiracy theorists are probably just as concerned with privacy rights, and what can be done with this information if your belief system happens to be different. It's kind of a legitimate concern that doesn't only apply to them (before you pigeonhole).
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
Boss Hog said:
The conspiracy theorists are probably just as concerned with privacy rights, and what can be done with this information if your belief system happens to be different. It's kind of a legitimate concern that doesn't only apply to them (before you pigeonhole).


ID theft,
Blackmale
False Accusations/arrests

ID theft is the biggest one most people post enough information that all it takes is a phonecall/email to obtain the rest ( for security purposes;) )

keep in mind you do not have total control over what other people post, so what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas....
 
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stryker

TRIBE Member
kyfe said:
this is old news

yeah I know. But I thought I'd post it again. This areticle has a fairly comprehensive list of the actual people involoved and their job titiles, etc...

stew
 

stryker

TRIBE Member
praktik said:
There may very well be information collection aspects of facebook that involve the CIA - but the last line of the article has it wrong.

The CIA isn't maintaing the growth, but I would hardly write them off as one of the major factors as to the growth and hype of FB

then the CIA is just really lucky that they happened to be involved with a project that took off for reasons entirely distinct from CIA operations.

They [DARPA and the letter agencies] also built the internet, modern telecommunications, GPS and self guiding vehicles. Plus a ost of technologies that havn'e seen the light of day. I'm sure it wasn't just dumb luck that all of the above have taken off and have become (or will become) ubiquitous elements of modern society

And as to the information they are collecting, if they really care what my favourite books are, then they have way too much time on their hands.

agreed.



but we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that the CIA is all powerful or influential enough to really create the kind of runaway social success of things like LSD use or Facebook.

I think they are exactly that powerful. See 3rd quote

I guess with all the high-tech imagery out there and shows like Alias or 24 or even CSI that we tend to be credulous when claims are made of near-omnipotence for agencies like the CIA or organizations like the US military

I'm actually of the opposite opinion. I feel that they play stupid because it suits their interests.
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
stryker said:
The CIA isn't maintaining the growth, but I would hardly write them off as one of the major factors as to the growth and hype of FB.

Doesn't this strike you as a contradictory statement in hindsight? My point was that the "growth" and "hype" are completely distinct from CIA machinations, given that their primary cause is social.

For example, I joined when my friends joined to ease communication and find long-lost classmates and such. What drove that for me was entirely social, and something beyond the capacity of the CIA to engineer.


stryker said:
They [DARPA and the letter agencies] also built the internet, modern telecommunications, GPS and self guiding vehicles. Plus a ost of technologies that havn'e seen the light of day. I'm sure it wasn't just dumb luck that all of the above have taken off and have become (or will become) ubiquitous elements of modern society.

This isn't all that controversial or arguable. The examples of civilian tech derived originally from military tech are many and sure to continue. Successful crossover products and technologies are surely not successful due to "dumb luck", but I'm not sure that I implied that above. They are successful primarily for three reasons:
  • They represent practical solutions easily adaptable to civilian use
  • Their price points are ones that the average consumer can afford, and their margins and cost of production are amenable to profit by those marketing them
  • In the case of the internet or facebook, the techs/apps tap into our social nature and make it desireable for one to utilize them
My main point above was that in the case of facebook, its runaway social success can't solely be explained by the shadowy hand of the CIA, if at all. There could have been a Facebook-like product which managed to exploit the same things Facebook does and succeed in its place, but the CIA - if we agree that they are "behind Facebook" in the first place - would not have had their "in" with say, "People Connector" and the CIA would have been left with all this Facebook work that would prove of marginal utility because something else beat them to it. Put more simply, there was no way the CIA would have known in the early days that Facebook would turn out as well as it did, given that adoption of the app by the wider public was something completely out of their hands.

stryker said:
I think they are exactly that powerful.

I'm not saying they don't have power, influence and guile - because its plain that they do. What I am saying, is that their power is not at a level that they could singlehandedly create a counter-cultural movement in the 60s - or singlehandedly bring it down. Their power is not at the level where they could make facebook the runaway social success it has become. The broader social environment of our culture is something no single agency or government can ever hope to control, composed as it is of millions of individuals and networks of individuals with the agency to make their own decisions and form their own opinions. Efforts can be made to guide public opinion and generate interest - that's what marketing and politics is all about at the end of the day - but the ability to do these things is finite and doesn't always turn out the way originally desired by the aspiring "puppeteers".
 

gsnuff

TRIBE Promoter
Boss Hog said:
The conspiracy theorists are probably just as concerned with privacy rights, and what can be done with this information if your belief system happens to be different. It's kind of a legitimate concern that doesn't only apply to them (before you pigeonhole).

If you have any serious concern with privacy you should not be on Facebook in the first place. Or if you are, you should definitely be working the fuck out of the privacy settings. Facebook should be used if you are A) optimistic about sharing data/lifestyle & online networking or B) completely ignorant/indifferent and just using it because everybody else does. I am optimistic about social networking in general, but am weary of Facebook given their resistance to data portability, open source identity management and social advertising policies.

All of this said, Facebook is merely another apolitical web startup and simply a marketing and demographics machine that has not hit stride yet.
 
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