No 134 Posted by fw, March 13, 2011
Echoing the concerns of Eben Moglen — “Centralized services like Facebook can kill you ” — U.S. Senator Al Franken is taking action to stop Facebook in its tracks. The Senator’s concerns are much more circumscribed than those of Moglen, who worries that the identity and actions of so-called “radical” activists and freedom fighters could easily be compromised by using centralized services — like Facebook, Google and Twitter — owned by private corporate bodies in the U.S.. The U.S. government has effectively legislated cyber-spying on its own citizens. And we know now that dictators will not hesitate to pull the plug on electronic information and communication systems when faced with mass citizen unrest or revolt.
In January, Facebook made a troubling announcement that it plans to allow third-party developers to request access to the home addresses and phone numbers of users. Despite Facebook’s insistence that it will protect its users, I believe this policy will place users at great risk. That’s why I wrote a letter with Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to stop plans for this new third party access to personal data. Armed with nothing more than a Facebook user’s phone number and home address, anyone with an Internet connection and a few dollars can obtain personal information they should never have access to, including a user’s date of birth, e-mail address, or estimated income. In fact, by using this information, an identity thief could get almost all of the data he would need to apply for a loan or a credit card in the name of an unsuspecting Facebook user.
The boom of new technologies over the last several years has made it easier to keep in touch with family and friends, but it has also put an unprecedented amount of personal information into the hands of large companies and unknown third parties. It’s important that Facebook protect its users by reversing their plans to permit developers to request and access this private information. It’s even more important that Facebook protect the children who use its website by never allowing them to accidentally share their phone numbers and home addresses with people who may want to hurt them.
Here is a selection of what some readers had to say about the Senator’s article:
Adding my comment to the mix, I would put it this way —
Would you trust this corporate billionaire to protect your privacy rights?
And in the photo on the right, would you trust the guy on the left, described by Moglen as heading up a surveillance-industrial-military complex, to follow through with his election campaign promises to revoke the policies of the guy on his right, with respect to data mining, surveillance, and domestic security in the net?
And in these troubling times, with public and private union members on the march across the U.S., will state and even federal government.agencies be tempted to monitor the online communication of citizen activist leaders? What particularly worries me is that I would even ask such a question.