Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a Freedom of Information Act request show the FBI has used, since at least 2001, special spyware to track suspects’ actions online. And according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are Facebook, Google, and Yahoo actually tools for the US intelligence community.
“Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are actually tools for the US intelligence community. Well, I would not be surprised if they were. However, there are even more disturbing information about US intelligence coming from the news site Russia Today.
Speaking to Russian news site RT in an interview, published Monday, Assange was especially critical of the world’s top social network.
He reportedly said that the information Facebook houses is a potential boon for the US government if it tries to build up a dossier on users.
“Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented,” Assange said in the interview, which is videotaped and published on the site.
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“Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence.”
If that’s the case, it might surprise some that WikiLeaks has its very own Facebook page.
In fact, last year, when WikiLeaks released a controversial batch of confidential documents–putting Assange on the run – Facebook refused to shut down that page.
The company said at the time that the page did not “violate our content standards nor have we encountered any material posted on the page that violates our policies.”
Facebook’s response stood in stark contrast to the treatment of WikiLeaks by many other companies in the US last year.
Several firms, including PayPal, blocked the company’s accounts.
But Assange didn’t just stop at Facebook.
He also told RT that in addition to the world’s largest social network, Google and Yahoo “have built-in interfaces for US intelligence.”
“It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena,” the former super-hacker says.
“They have an interface that they have developed for U.S. intelligence to use.”
Assange didn’t mention Twitter, another major social network with which his organization has run into trouble.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department sent a court order to Twitter, requesting the social network deliver information from accounts of activists that allegedly had ties to WikiLeaks.
In March, the Justice Department was granted access to those accounts following a judge’s ruling in favor of the seizure.
Last month, the Justice Department said that complaints over its desire to obtain Twitter information is “absurd,” and its actions are quite common in criminal investigations.
However, the Justice Department didn’t secure a search warrant for access to the information. Instead, it obtained a 2703(d) order, allowing investigators to secure online records that are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a Freedom of Information Act request show the FBI has used, since at least 2001, special spyware to track suspects’ actions online, RT reports.
The documents highlight software called Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier (CIPAV) which allows federal authorities to collect details about a user every time they use the Internet.
The FBI collected IP addresses, MAC addresses, open communication ports, lists of programs running, URLs visited, and much more.
If remains unclear how the FBI places the spyware onto a suspect’s computer.
It is however believed they use computer and Internet vulnerabilities such as viruses to plant the software.
According to the documents the FBI has routinely used the software both in domestic criminal and foreign investigations.
The US Air Force, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, foreign governments and others are all interested in utilizing the program.
This revelation comes after the FBI recently asked the US Congress to make it easier for them to wiretap and access the personal communications of others.
The bureau requested the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security alter the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act in their favor.
The act already requires telecommunications companies to design and build their systems to ensure law enforcement officials can monitor any telephone or communications line whenever they deem necessary.
The FBI wants Congress to require online companies to do the same by forcing them to re-engineer their technology and software to make it easier for the FBI to drop in.
“These documents show the FBI already has numerous tools available to surveil suspects directly, rather than through each of their communications service providers,” Jennifer Lynch from the Electronic Frontier Foundation says.
“A device that remains ‘persistent’ on a ‘compromised computer’ is certainly concerning. However, if the FBI obtains a probable cause-based court order before installing tools like CIPAV, complies with the minimization requirements in federal wiretapping law by limiting the time and scope of surveillance, and removes the device once surveillance concludes, the use of these types of targeted tools for Internet surveillance would be a much more narrowly tailored solution to the FBI’s purported problems than the proposal to undermine every Internet user’s privacy and security by expanding CALEA.”
Documents obtained by the digital rights advocacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) via Freedom of Information Act litigation also showed the FBI abused surveillance powers granted by the PATRIOT Act.
In February the US Congresses passed a bill to extend three specific provisions of the PATRIOT Act – the roving wiretaps, “lone wolf” and “library record” provisions were extended until May 27.
The provisions grant authorities the ability to conduct surveillance without identifying the target or locations being monitored.
They also allow surveillance of non-US citizens non-affiliated with terrorist groups and allow the FBI to access “any tangible thing” during their investigations.
FBI Director Robert Mueller argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the provisions should be made permanent and that no violations or abuses of the provisions have taken place.
However, EFF found that the FBI monitored young kids for at least five days, even though the conversations did not match the language of the target.
According to a report, the abuse and violation occurred due to negligence on the FBI’s part because of an inaccurate review of a wiretap renewal application. RT writes on their website.
Following Mueller’s call to renew and possibly make permanent the provisions, a number of legislators are expected to comply.
But, some lawmakers plan to seek amendments top ensure the civil liberties of Americas are maintained.
Senate Democratic Minority Whip Dick Durbin proposed an amendment that would require the government describe the target of a wiretap with greater specificity to avoid violations like spending days monitoring the conversations of children.
“Roving wiretaps, which do not require the government to specify the place to be bugged, are designed to allow law enforcement to track targets who evade surveillance by frequently changing phones,” he explain.
“Before the PATRIOT Act, roving wiretaps were only permitted for criminal investigations.”
The PATRIOT Act changed the criminal provision and allowed law enforcement to listen to anyone they deemed necessary – even independent of an investigation.
“The PATRIOT Act did not include sufficient checks to protect innocent Americans from unwarranted government surveillance,” Durbin remarked.
This is something he and fellow civil liberty advocates hope to address before the PATRIOT Act is extended again.
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