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News Security

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Questions Privacy Expectations

  • January 11, 2010
  • By Tom Jowitt

Privacy is no longer a social norm, according to the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg commenting on the rise of social networking

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook has said that people no longer have an expectation of privacy thanks to increasing uptake of social networking.

Speaking at the Crunchie Awards in San Francisco this weekend, the 25 year-old web entrepreneur said: “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds but more openly and with more people.”

Zuckerberg went on to add that the rise of social media reflects the changing attitudes among the general public, saying that this radical change has happened in the space of five years.

“When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was, ‘why would I want to put any information on the Internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?’,” he said.

“And then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information,” he said.

Facebook is estimated to have over 100 million users in the United States alone, and more than 350 million users worldwide. Zuckerberg’s comments come after the social networking giant recently decided to (somewhat controversially) change the privacy settings of all its users.

In December, Facebook launched a number of new tools which enabled users to control who sees what content on their account, as well as a Transition Tool and simplified privacy settings.

The issue of privacy is a vexed one, especially in the United Kingdom where, late last year, the Home Office pledged to push ahead with controversial plans to monitor all Internet use. The Ministry is requiring communications firms to monitor all Internet use, and is asking them to retain information on how people use social networks such as Facebook.

Yet the dangers posed by people opening up online to the rest of the world is well know. Back in August, a survey sponsored by British insurance firm Legal & General found that users of social networking sites were giving away vital information about themselves and their whereabouts that was being used by professional burglars to establish a list of targets. The report, “The Digital Criminal,” found that 38 percent of users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter have posted status updates detailing their holiday plans and a third of people have posted status updates saying that they are away for the weekend.

Zuckerberg also said it was important for companies such as Faceook, to reflect the changing social norms in order to remain relevant and competitive.

“A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they’ve built,” he said. “Doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do.

“But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner’s mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.”

Photo credit: (CC) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com / bub.blicio.us / CC-BY

Categories
News Security Wikileaks

Twitter Fights US Court Demands For WikiLeaks Details

 by Brian Prince

Twitter is fighting a US court’s demand, made in December, for details of WikiLeaks supporters

Micro-blogging site Twitter is opposing an order from a US court, to reveal the account details of supporters of WikiLeaks. Twitter has called on Facebook and Google to reveal whether they also received similar court orders.

As part of the US government’s investigation into WikiLeaks, a court ordered Twitter, in mid-December, to give details of accounts owned by supporters of the whistle-blower site. Twitter has protested against the subpoena and informed the individuals whose account information has  been requested, while raising the possibility that other social networking players have received similar orders.

Records required for criminal investigation

The US Department of Justice obtained a subpoena for the micro-blogging site on 14 December, requesting records going back to 1 November 2009, that are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Among those targeted are WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp (whose name is misspelled in the subpoena) and Bradley Manning, the US Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking documents to WikiLeaks.

Also named in the subpoena are computer programmer Jacob Appelbaum (identified by his Twitter username, ioerror) and former WikiLeaks volunteer and current Icelandic parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir (left), who wrote the following in a tweet: “just got this: Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to wikileaks).”

Jónsdóttir also tweeted that she plans to oppose the subpoena.

According to a copy of the court order published by Salon.com (PDF), the government is looking for a variety of information, including session times and mailing addresses.

“WikiLeaks strongly condemns this harassment of individuals by the US government,” WikiLeaks said in a statement relayed to Reuters by WikiLeaks attorney Mark Stephens.

The recent WikiLeaks controversy began when the site started publishing a trove of US diplomatic cables in late November. The release of the documents has touched off months of debate and prompted WikiLeaks supporters and opponents alike to air their differences with denial-of-service attacks while businesses such as PayPal cut ties with the whistle-blower site.

In December, Assange was arrested in the UK on charges of sexual assault originating in Sweden. He is currently out on bail.

In its statement, WikiLeaks reportedly said that some of the people named in the subpoena were key figures in helping WikiLeaks make public US military video of a 2007 airstrike that killed Iraqi civilians. WikiLeaks is instructing its lawyers to oppose the subpoena, and is calling on Facebook and Google to disclose whether they received similar subpoenas as well.

A federal judge unsealed the court order on 5 January after Twitter requested the right to inform the people being targeted.

In addition to obtaining the subpoena, it was also revealed that the US government has taken steps to protect people judged by officials to be in danger because of the document leak. On 7 January, US State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley told the media the department has helped relocate “a handful of people” identified in the diplomatic documents out of concern for their safety. The CIA set up a WikiLeaks Task Force (WTF) in response to the leak.

WikiLeaks has denied putting any lives at risk, and the UN has supported its right to publish the leaked material on human rights grounds.

WikiLeaks publication of the US cables resulted ina war of denial of service (DoS) attacks, hitting both WikiLeaks itself , and the sites of financial institutions such as Mastercard, which withdrew facilities for WikiLeaks supporters to donate money to the whistleblower.