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  (Source: Earth Hope Network)

  (Source: NY Times)
U.S. Federal agents encouraged to "friend" unsuspecting residents.

Big Brother recently made headlines for tracking a U.S. citizen, by placing a GPS device into his vehicle.  Now, a privacy watchdog group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has uncovered documents indicating that U.S. government agencies are monitoring social networking sites and tracking public communication online.

The EFF found that the Homeland Security Department monitored public online communication during the period of President Obama's inauguration.  In addition, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a unit of Homeland Security, is currently conducting an online effort that actively encourages agents to "friend" residents that they suspect may be involved in fraud.

Once a user posts online, government agencies create a public record and timeline of their activities according to reports

A 2008 memo (PDF) from the Department of Homeland Security stated that the agency is relying on people's "narcissistic tendencies" -- citing their need to amass a large group of friends by accepting friend requests from people that they don't know.

"This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS (Office of Fraud Detection and National Security) to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities," the memo said.

In addition to monitoring the obvious targets -- Facebook, Twitter and MySpace -- the agencies have recently focused on YouTube, Blogger, Digg, Craigslist and Wikipedia.  Flickr, MiGente, BlackPlanet, NPR, and DailyKos are online sites that have been monitored in the past. 

The EFF obtained its information through a freedom of information request.

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On the fence - Sway me!
By Schrag4 on 10/18/2010 11:30:20 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, on the one hand, I don't like Big Brother peering into my life. Not because I'm doing anything wrong, but someday the govt might change their minds about exactly who they consider a threat.

On the other hand, FaceBook? Really? Are people seriously complaining that they don't have a public place where they can plan to commit crimes?

So, as the subject suggests, help me form an opinion by expressing yours. Should the govt be monitoring these so obviously public social networking sites, weeding out the so very stupid criminals up-front? Or should we ALL be scared that some day Big Brother might target us because we mention (in a totally non-threatening way) we don't like some new law or we don't like how someone new to some office is running things?

RE: On the fence - Sway me!
By raumkrieger on 10/18/2010 1:03:46 PM , Rating: 2
This is what struck me as odd
the agency is relying on people's "narcissistic tendencies" -- citing their need to amass a large group of friends by accepting friend requests from people that they don't know.

Really? Friending people you don't know? You deserve to be spammed at best, scammed at worst. The number of facebook friends I have are only in the double digits, and I know them all personally.
This doesn't excuse the government's snooping, but people shouldn't be giving them the opportunity in the first place.

RE: On the fence - Sway me!
By geddarkstorm on 10/25/2010 2:40:59 PM , Rating: 3
Dude, I'm exactly like you, but do you know how many people fit that quote to a T? An order of magnitude more than those that are like us, at least.

It really is an easy, brilliant way to monitor people, since we're in the age of "can't shut up, must post every trivial fact of life and location RIGHT NOW.. oh and on multiple sites". In fact, in no way does this violate anyone's privacy either.

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