Homeland Security: A Follower You Cannot Defriend

One of America’s internal spy agencies has eyes for your social media.

Homeland Security's eyes are on your Facebook and Twitter prize. (Photo: Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

It should be no surprise to the reasonably paranoid among us that, having observed the role of Facebook and Twitter in numerous North African and Middle Eastern uprisings, including three regime changes, the United States Department of Homeland Security is considering ways to optimize its relationship with social media.

None of America’s internal spy agencies is transparent enough to admit that contingency plans are being drawn up to deal with the unlikely event of an American Spring.

The Associated Press reports on Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner’s status update:

“We’re still trying to figure out how you use things like Twitter as a source,” she said. “How do you establish trends and how do you then capture that in an intelligence product?”

An “intelligence product” is a process or mechanism that packages and delivers valuable data. For instance, an employer might consult the Facebook intelligence product and determine that three out of five executive assistants affected by a food poisoning outbreak were photographed doing Halloween Jägermeister rips six hours before the workday’s start time.

Homeland Security’s Wagner insists that Facebook and Twitter are not currently being monitored to ferret out suspect U.S. residents. Today’s challenge, she suggests, is to develop guidelines for trolling social media sites without breaking any of the, what some call, strict laws that protect the privacy of American citizens and ensure that freedom’s favorite children are not spied upon by their own democracy.

None of America’s internal spy agencies is transparent enough to admit that contingency plans are being drawn up to deal with the unlikely event of an American Spring. However, it’s not wildly theoretical to assume that analysts in the U.S. intelligence community are dissecting Egypt’s, Tunisia’s, Libya’s, Yemen’s, Syria’s and London, England’s strategies for monitoring, controlling and acting upon “open source” communications, and determining better methods for that monitoring, controlling and action.

Your Facebook and Twitter activity is available to anyone on the Internet. You are creating a profile of your affiliations, alignments and affinities. Meanwhile, millions, perhaps billions, of taxpayer dollars are appropriated to track, anticipate and influence these affiliations, alignments and affinities.

Reasonably paranoid yet?

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