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  (Source: Earth Hope Network)

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  (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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