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[liberationtech] Facebook: Building Global Community - What's your response to Mark Zuckerberg?

Rich Kulawiec rsk at
Fri Feb 24 08:12:08 PST 2017

On Sat, Feb 18, 2017 at 02:23:18PM -0800, Yosem Companys wrote:
> To protect your privacy and security, stay off Facebook.
> But, to build movements, create an account on Facebook (or Twitter or any
> other dominant centralized social network) and try to get as many people to
> join.

[ rhetorical "you" throughout ]

I think this is a really bad idea: it's a trap.

These aren't tools that exist to facilitate your cause: these are data
harvesting and surveillance engines that will collect and collate every
scrap of data and metadata your adversaries need.  And once that corpus
exists, it WILL be acquired: it's much too valuable and much too easily
transmitted to have the slightest chance of staying in one place.

This is obvious on inspection: every architectural decision, every design
decision, every operational decision, every policy decision ever made
by these operations supports the goal of data acquisition.  It's what
they were built to do.

All the other stuff?  Shiny distraction.  Bait.  Scam.  Propaganda.

Whether the data's acquired by overt contractual arrangement, whether it's
acquired by force of law, whether it's acquired under the table, whether
it's acquired by hacking, whether it's acquired via individual employees,
it WILL be acquired.

Nobody leaves that rich a source of actionable intelligence just sitting
on the table untouched.

So all that you will accomplish by using "social networks" is:

	(a) building the database your enemies need to destroy you and
	your allies and your cause

	(b) building it in a place where they can easily get it --
	if they haven't already had it from the moment you created it.

For example:

	If I were working for fill-in-the-blank, I would already have
	my own people in place at Twitter and Eventbrite and Meetup
	and Facebook and all the rest -- either full-time employees,
	or people I've co-opted via bribes, blackmail, or other means.
	They'd be there long before you were, just waiting for you to
	show up and start spending your time and your effort and your
	money handing them as much data/metadata as you possibly can.

	I would do much the same thing if I were a sufficiently-organized,
	sufficiently-funded group intent on propagating racism or fascism
	or poverty or pollution or any of the things likely to trigger

	Why not?  It's cheap.  It's easy.  It's low-risk.  It's
	sustainable.  It's simple.  It's deniable.  It's scalable.
	In contrast to other spying/surveillance operations, which can
	be expensive, complex, and risky, this is a cakewalk *because
	they already built everything for me at their expense*.

	What possible reason would I have for not taking advantage of it?

	You'll give me data on your supporters, your allies, your
	movements, their movements, your family, their families, your
	friends, their friends, you employer, their employers, their
	spending habits, their operating systems, their web browsers
	and mail clients, your meetings -- and much more.

	I'm going to end up knowing far more about you and your people
	than YOU know.

If you're trying to "liberate" someone or something, the first thing
you need to do is liberate yourself from "social networks".  You should
be trying as hard as you possibly can NOT to generate this data/metadata
at all, anywhere -- instead of not only doing so deliberately, but doing
it in a place that you have zero control over and that your adversaries
can access far more easily than you can.  (Please don't even try to tell
me stuff like "my Facebook group is private".  The only possible response
to a fairy tale like that is mocking laughter.)

If you insist on blundering ahead with "social networks" anyway, because
you're too stubborn to listen or too naive to think it can happen to
you, then as soon as you become a problem for an adversary with the
requisite resources -- that is, as soon as you become effective at
annoying someone with money or power -- they're going to exploit this.


p.s. And as if this wasn't enough, in case you haven't noticed, the US
is now demanding "social network" passwords from people entering the
country.  Howls of protest have gone up, and a joint letter from a
coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations has been
penned.  The combined impact of all this will be zero.  This administration
doesn't care for facts or reason or petitions or protests, only about
imposing its will.  All that's necessary is shouting "TERRORISM!" repeatedly
and accusing opposers of weakness and lack of patriotism and supporting
the bad guys: this is more than enough to get the stupid segment of the
population -- which is the majority -- to support this nonsense.

And by the time it's replaced with a sane one, IF it's replaced with a
sane one, the damage will be done: this will be the new normal.  See
"the Overton window" for the archetype.

And, as that letter observes, what the US does will be copied by other
countries, so we're not far from a future where most countries demand
exactly the same thing.  And given that this is all being done under
the guise of stopping the insignificant but easily hyped threat of
terrorism, refusal isn't going to be a viable choice.

This would be bad enough, even if the exposure was limited to
the governments involved.  But it won't be.  These passwords have
value.  Therefore there will be buyers.  Therefore there will be sellers.
Border personnel (traditionally among the most corrupt public
officials, since they have the most opportunity) will no doubt find it
quite lucrative to acquire and market these to *anyone* who can pay:
human traffickers, drug dealers, kidnappers, stalkers, organized crime,
*anyone*.  Why not?  It's not THEIR data.  You're not THEIR problem.
And they have a combination of nearly unlimited authority backed
by lethal force, accompanied by zero acountability and more than
enough plausible deniability.

The only way to win this game is not to play.

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