While Facebook and Twitter have been used quite impressively in recent years to help people organise protests and demonstrations against governments, social networks like them, including Google +, have apparently been helping out governments track down users, despite their “for the people” image.
Reuters is reporting that thanks to these sites’ dependancy on using user information to sell on to advertisers, that when government agencies demand access to it, they don’t have a valid excuse for not giving it to them. RIM has been criticised in the past for handing over information of their own Blackberry messenger service.
“When the possibility exists for information to be obtained that wasn’t possible before, it’s entirely understandable that law enforcement is interested,” Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf told Reuters in an interview.
“Then the issue would be, what’s the right policy? And that, or course, engenders a lot of debate,” said Cerf.
Naturally, not everyone is pleased with this, with online privacy researcher and activist Christopher Soghoian, letting it be known that there are more requests from big companies for information than people are aware of. Apparently upwards of 300,000 such requests a year.
“Government agencies throughout the world are pushing companies to collect even more data than is needed for their business purposes,” she told the conference.
“For example, we have a very controversial data retention regime which is currently under review. This requires people to store data for a period up to two years so it can easily be accessed by law enforcement agencies.”
Perhaps this will be a nod to those suggesting that people put less information about themselves online, though it’s unlikely. Those looking to organise something that the government can use against them later though should certainly take note and perhaps be a little more anonymous if they can. It’s easy to make new Twitter/Facebook accounts, do that.