Spying on the Interwebs
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are to sue Facebook, according to rumors currently circulating in Washington and Virginia. But they may be in for a shock. Sources close to the White House say that President George W Bush is considering closing the super-spook agency and making cut-backs in the CIA budget.
"Why do we need expensive organizations like the NSA and CIA to spy on US citizens when we can just use Facebook and MySpace?" said one White House insider.
Leaks from the NSA suggest that it feels Facebook is trespassing on its turf. "We invented this shit," said one whistleblower. "The whole thing about spying on people and building up profiles? We started that. Hell, even the word 'profile' is ours. So we're going to nail their asses for infringement of our intellectual property. And besides, these days we could do with the money."
But in a shock response, some in the intelligence community are suggesting that the NSA and CIA are no longer pulling their weight. One congressman, with links to defense committees, said: "In this modern, connected world, do we really need these old-fashioned organizations? The interweb pipes already contain more data than these agencies can collect. These days, if I want information on, well, anything, I don't bother with government sources. I just ask my nine year-old daughter to use the Google."
Defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, already exploit publicly accessible web sources as part of their homeland defense, trusted traveler and border security systems. These use data mining techniques, scouring personal websites, blogs, social networking sites and internet forums. The systems build profiles on people who are suspected, or might be suspected, or might have met someone who is suspected of being a terrorist, a drug baron, an activist or who is in some other way 'special'.
"The amount of data we can build about people is incredible," said one unattributable source. "Take photos. Some people are worried that the federal government is building a database of driver's license and passport photos. But why would we bother? All we need to do is scrape Facebook, MySpace and Flickr. That way, we gets lots of pictures of you, with different expressions, different lighting conditions, different angles. And you kindly label the pictures for us — not just yourself but all your known associates. And you tell us where and when the pictures were taken. That's really cool. These days, we don't bother following people, we just check out their Flickr albums."
The same source said that users' 'friends' lists are also invaluable. "Do you have any idea how much work it takes to build a list of known associates? It can take weeks, years. With Facebook and MySpace, it's all right there. And the really bad guys don't even have to have Facebook accounts. We just need to find one of their friends, associates or contacts who does and bingo! We have the whole network right there. I mean, if you've come into contact with a terrorist, or someone who's met a terrorist, or anyone else we deem untrustworthy, then that's reasonable cause for suspicion, right? I mean, you'd want us watching someone like you, right?"
The NSA was unavailable for comment.