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Dear Julian Assange: The Internet is the Most Appalling Spy Machine Ever Invented

May 2 2011, 3:15pm CDT | by , in News | Technology News

Dear Julian Assange: The Internet is the Most Appalling Spy Machine Ever Invented
 
 

You're still being spied on if you don't use Facebook.

If you're a regular reader of Russia Today or a big fan of that white-haired rogue Julian Assange, you may want to watch this interview. In it, the Wikileaks founder calls Facebook the "most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented". He goes on to explain that the social network is accessible to US Intelligence, which means none of your data is ever really "private".

But I think Mr. Assange may have his focused his ire unfairly at Facebook. This last week saw Sony lose access to private data on tens of millions of people. The big story in April was that Android and iOS all stored and catalogued your location data. It's true that Facebook makes your data available to all manner of shady people.

But that's the caveat for almost any online service.

We hand out private information- financial details, entertainment preferences, contact data- every day to a galaxy of websites, retailers and services. Sometimes they justify our trust with stringent security. And other times they farm our data off to a company like Epsilon who loses it to hackers.

And there's always the risk of a service like PlayStation Network being hacked to ribbons. I'm sure every one of the 77 million people who had their identities exposed felt Sony was totally worthy of their trust. They had no way to know Sony wasn't even encrypting their data.

Just like we don't know what simple things Microsoft or Google or Nintendo or whoever will be responsible for the next big info leak is doing wrong. But there will be another leak. The PSN hack won't remain the world's largest data heist for long. The sad fact is: if you store your data online, someone can steal it.

And they won't even have to "steal" it, if they're with the right government agency. As Mr. Assange pointed out, anything you put up online can be accessed by G-Men with the proper court order. Facebook isn't the only entity that "spies" on you. Every online service you use tracks your presence, whether it's in the digital world or meatspace. You can't avoid this and still use the Internet.


The term "spy machine" isn't really appropriate, because most of the data gathered on you will never be seen by another human being. The average person isn't interesting enough to justify real "spying". But the Internet does constantly collect data that can be used to spy on you. It's really more like a giant monster that feeds on personal information and poops out giant databases of secrets. But that doesn't really make a good sound bite.

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