Tag Archive: Social media

UK Home Security: The Snoopers’ Charter

Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, will introduce legislation next month in an attempt to allow Britain’s law-enforcement to “check in” on citizens using their Twitter, Facebook, email and Skype accounts.

The proposed legislation, the ‘Snoopers’ Charter,’ would allow for “on demand” knowledge in “real time” of who speaks to whom.  The agencies that would be able to receive the information gathered include MI5 and GCHQ. The Home Office stated, “the new law would keep crime-fighting abreast of developments in instant communications – and that a warrant would still be required to view the content of messages.”   The data gathered that would not require a warrant may include time and duration of citizens use of various media.  May  feels confident that the new law will be enacted because normally strong supporters of civil liberties, the Liberal Democrats, are backing the new law.

The proposed law has its critics.  Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch Campaign Group,  stated, “This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety.”  Pickles continued to describe the law as “an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as in China and Iran.”


Recently, a verdict was rendered in the cyber bullying case involving a former Rutgers University student.  On March 16, a New Jersey jury found Dharun Ravi guilty of numerous charges, including bias intimidation, hindering apprehension, witness tampering, and tampering with physical evidence.  These convictions could place Ravi in jail for up to ten years.  Ravi might also be deported after he completes his sentence.

Dharun Ravi was found to have viewed webcam footage of his roommate, Tyler Clementi.  The footage captured Clementi having an intimate encounter with another man.  Ravi then tweeted he saw his roommate kissing another man. Days later, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River.

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan calls the verdict “unprecedented,” adding that the verdict “sends a message to people across the rest of the country about the potential consequences of unauthorized webcam use.”  Rutgers University released this statement after the verdict. “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”

Facebook’s Most Wanted: “Sie can run, but Sie can’t hide”

Facebook is used by approximately 845 million people across the world.  Individuals use Facebook, among other reasons, to keep up with friends and as a method of self-expression, but now you can add one more use to that list.

In the northern German city of Hanover, which is the capital of the German state of Lower Saxony, the social media tool is being used to catch criminals.  Six months ago, Hanover police set up a Facebook account in an effort to use the help of the public in solving cases.  The Facebook group “Polizei Hannover” with some 23 thousand friends, and with 1.6 million hits over the past month, has helped in clearing cases involving missing persons, a break-in, and auto theft.  The state’s interior minister, Uwe Schuenemann, said in a statement regarding its use of Facebook, “Our successes so far clearly show that the police must not shut themselves off from this medium.”  Saxony’s successes include clearing up a missing persons case after the suspects’ images were circulated on the Lower-Saxony Police fan page.  The use of suspects’ pictures on Facebook in Germany raises issues of great concern among data protection groups.  Their concern arrises from the fact that once outside of Europe, the European Union data protection laws don’t apply.  Governments are starting to use Facebook in novel ways to identify criminals and help to solve criminal cases.

Facebook and Politico: The New Primary

Historically, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has served as the “nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”  The latest issue that has caught the attention of the ACLU is the use of Facebook’s  “sentiment analysis tool” which provides data specifically to the American political organization, Politico.

United States users of Facebook who mention a presidential candidate’s name, either in public or private posts, are fed through Facebook’s sentiment analysis tool do determine the winner of the “Facebook Primary.”  The ACLU argues that the data collected from users for the Facebook and Politico’s joint effort to “measure GOP candidate buzz” was gathered without the knowledge of the Facebook users.  The ACLU claims that Facebook “failed to reveal any mention of user consent anywhere in their announcement of the project and questions how Facebook decided that the U.S. users agreed that their personal communication can and should be used in this way.”

Whether or not Facebook failed to gain the consent of its United States users in using personal communication, the long-term effect of this marriage between social media and political websites, such as Politico, suggests the growing power of social media in American society. Political candidates will likely ramp up the use of programs like this in order to maximize their electability.

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