Thursday, January 24, 2008

Facebook - Big Brother in the guise of "social networking"???

I didn't intend my next post to be about Facebook - I was going to write a couple of book reviews - but I got a phone call last night from a friend - they'd just gotten home from work and thought they'd ring - we were having quite an interesting conversation (I thought) - and then they started laughing - now nothing we were talking about warranted laughter so I had to ask what was funny... apparently something on their Facebook was funny!!!!! yes, they were looking at their Facebook while having a conversation with me!!!! So apparently I didn't have the full attention during conversation of the person who had rung me!!!! I'm all for multitasking, but that was ridiculous - Facebook is apparently the major 'survival portal' which needs to be open at all times - how on earth could you survive without knowing who's had a drink sent to them, who's received a gift from someone, who's updated their status recently???? All seems a tad voyeuristic to me... vicarious living maybe (for those who don't have a real life????)

Yes, I fell into the trap of joining Facebook, lasted a few months (until I got totally and utterly sick of the mindless crap that goes on within it), and then I 'deactivated' my account - apparently you can't just delete or totally sign off of your Facebook account, you can only 'deactivate' it - you would have to ask why??? Maybe the following could be a reason.... it's an excerpt from an article from the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Archive of the Common Ground Common Sense website showing where the original funding for Facebook came from - very, very scary!!!!!

"The first venture capital money to come into Facebook, $500,000 worth, came from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, founder and former CEO of Paypal. A Stanford graduate and former columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Thiel is author of the book "The Diversity Myth," which received praises from notable neo-conservatives such as William Kristol. In fact, Thiel is on the board of the radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

Further funding came in the form of $12.7 million from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Accel's manager James Breyer was former chair of the National Venture Capital Association (NVAC). Breyer served on NVAC's board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. This firm works in various aspects of information technology and intelligence, including most notably "nurturing data mining technologies.

Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research and development firm known for spearheading the ARPANET, or what we know today as the Internet. In October of 2004, Dr. Anita Jones climbed on board, becoming a part of a firm packed with leaders from other areas of Silicon Valley's venture capital community, including none other than Gilman Louie. But what is most interesting is Dr. Jones' experience prior to joining BBN.

Jones herself served on the Board of Directors for In-Q-Tel, and was previously the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

While the nearly $13 million that came from Accel to fund The Facebook certainly looks suspicious and unfortunately disturbing after reviewing all of this information, the only problem on the surface seems to be the appearance of some incestuous relationships between the Pentagon, the CIA, and these venture capital firms. But this goes further than just the initial appearances. DARPA shot to national fame in 2002 when John Markoff of the New York Times announced the existence of the "Information Awareness Office" (IAO). According to Wikipedia, "the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data." Protests came from civil libertarians on both the right and the left who saw the IAO as a new Orwellian arm of the United States government. After Congress investigated DARPA's project, funding was cut off and IAO was essentially dead in the water.

The Information Awareness Office seems to have survived some of its original purposes in a mutated form, found in today's Facebook. In fact, one of IAO's original example technologies included "human network analysis and behavior model building engines," a surprising echo of the social networking mapping that Facebook does using SVG visualizations. Add that to the information that Facebook collects and compare it to the startlingly similar goal of the IAO. It appears at first glance that DoD, along with the CIA, has managed to circumvent its previous Congressionally established limitations and find corporate sponsorship for its programs, under the thin veil of a useful social network."

Now that's really, really scary!!!!

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