Like many of us, the FBI and four other federal law enforcement agencies have embraced social networking. The difference is that the Feds are "friending" people under fake names and profiles in order to collect information, without a warrant, about possible crimes — meaning a Facebook status update or MySpace photo shared with friends could potentially land you in jail. Are we careening toward the end of privacy? (Watch a CNN report about online cyber squads on social networking sites)
The Feds need to respect boundaries: No doubt Facebook and MySpace "can be very handy when investigating a crime," says Zeljka Zorz at Help Net Security News, but letting online G-men snoop around undercover without a warrant or any oversight is a recipe for abuse. We need to set up and enforce rules for federal undercover Facebooking.
"Feds on social networks: What can they do?"
The FBI's just taking advantage of stupid crooks: Personally, "I have no problem with this kind of snooping," says The Economist. If criminals are dumb enough to give themselves away in a Facebook status update or photo, they get what they deserve. So teens, if "an online 'friend' asks if there will be booze at your birthday party, just say no."
"Stupid criminals and Facebook"
This flap just underlines the new rules of the game: Government agents infiltrating your Facebook network is merely the latest "affront to our personal data," says Robert X. Cringely in InfoWorld. But there's hope: Facebook, Netflix, and Google Buzz have all reconsidered privacy-endangering moves in the face of public outrage. Either way, you've now been warned: "The social networking honeymoon is officially over," so share at your own risk.
"The FBI on Facebook: Watching every move you make"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- After Ferguson, we don't need another dialogue on race
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- How Hillary Clinton's 'smart power' turned Libya into a dumpster fire
- The government is getting into the fact-checking business. Be very, very afraid.
- In defense of Obama's golfing
Subscribe to the Week