Posted by & filed under Personalization, Privacy, telecomunications, texting, Twitter.

Description: Be mindful of your social media postings, Homeland security is watching. CNN’s Lizzy O’Leary reports.


Date: Feb 16, 2012

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you feel this is an invasion of privacy?  Why or Why not?

24 Responses to “Uncle Sam is Watching your tweets”

  1. CAP

    People already know that someone will be able to access their postings on any social media sites. There are not only people that can hack into an account, but also homeland security. I think if needs be, homeland security should be able to access any information they need on social media sites. If homeland security is just peeking for fun then I do not agree with that. Then again we can never know if they are doing it to find specific information they need. There are many people who already know the risk they are taking if they do post something online and if they do choose to post something then they are pretty much giving permission for others to read their postings. If there are people who are worried about their privacy being exposed to the world then they should not post anything online because they already know the risks that can happen. Yes this can be an issue of privacy, but in reality there is no specific solution to this problem. I’m sure there are privacy laws and such, but not everyone will follow them. People just need to choose whether or not they will post things online and risk the exposure.

  2. Jillian

    This clip describes that Homeland Security is screening publicly available information for the purpose of identifying potential problems and finding a possible solution. They do this by screening keywords related to subject matters they are trying to identify with. An example they use in this clip is long airport lines, they find evidence to see if this is really an issue, and from there they figure out what they’re going to do about it.
    I do not feel as though this is an invasion of privacy, because they are only supposed to screen publicly available information. Homeland Security is supposed to scrub evidence of private information; however, it was suggested by the news reporter that names have slipped through in the process. Individuals have a free choice of what information to share online, whether that is positive or negative, fact or fiction. People need to be aware of their dignity when posting information, because this could potentially have negative effects towards them. Ignorant in respect to thinking that the public can’t have access to an individual’s online postings even if you do think you have the most secure privacy settings is not a defense against others gathering evidence from your postings. Therefore, to suggest that individuals didn’t know that other people could have access to information they post is a lack of an excuse.

  3. Cody

    If people are offended or feel violated that homeland security is doing this and/or have the ability to do this, its just plain ignorance. There’s no limit to what they can access on the web, privacy restricted or not. If your posting something on social media sites you have to be willing to accept it’s out their for anyone to access, the world wide web is not your personal social location. They say their “not supposed to” look if you have privacy settings, but read between the lines and know if your posting something they’re searching for, your privacy settings won’t hold anything back. People should act on a simple rule, if you don’t want the world to see it then don’t post it! Homeland security is saving so much money simply tracking and monitoring people on Facebook, so why wouldn’t they continue to use the most powerful tool ever invented just for them! Here’s kind of a funny video along the same topic.

  4. Logan Woo

    From what the clip is illustrating homeland security is harmlessly screening our Facebook sites and other social media devices for words and phrases as to problems that may need fixing such as airport lines. Although this is what is being said on the document I believe their intentions to be quite different, “saying one thing and doing another” sort of speak. Although every individual that signs up on Facebook or searches things on Google knows that their history is being noted and collected somewhere we as individuals like to think that it is being used for methods such as this. Yes, I believe this too be a huge invasion of privacy, although sometimes it is necessary in order to prevent wrong doings from certain organization or individuals our right to privacy is slowly being taken away from us. From a student point of view yes we have nothing to hide but we choose not to share certain information because we would like to keep it confidential and the fact that this corporation is being paid eleven million dollars to bypass our right to privacy is ridiculous. It makes you wonder as to what is next to happen, they already have traffic cameras which are able to scan four lanes of traffic, process each license plate check the information of the car I.e registration, speeding, traffic violations and then notify the authorities in cases which require intervention.

  5. carl

    Yes i do feel an invasion of privacy from homeland security and anyone else that can access my information online. This is why you have to expect that anything you put online will be open for the public, whether it be hackers or homeland security looking at your information. This lack of privacy in the online world is not new, but as of recent has been talked about alot. Because some people are just realizing how unsafe your information is no matter how secure it seems. In the case of homeland security being able to access personal information, I believe it to be very justified. because it is supposed to be for the good of the group, if homeland security stops a terrorist attack or catches an extra criminal, then I believe it to be totally worth letting them look at useless information on my facebook page. The only people that would be against homeland security looking at their information would be people who have something to hide. And because of these people all of us have to give up our privacy rights. In conclusion i would advise people not to put anything on the internet, that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.

  6. Sarah Lawson

    This news report is saying that even though you think your Facebook and Twitter posts are private between your common friends on the social networks, it might not be. Organizations and companies like Homeland Security contact these social networks directly to find the loop holes in their privacy agreements. I believe if someone is truly worried about being watched on the internet they should thoroughly read the privacy statements social networking sites post. Websites like Facebook and Twitter are worried about the with-holding of information you post on their websites, and that is why they have a privacy policy. They constantly encourage users to review the privacy policy before posting what might be questionable posts or pictures.
    I don’t believe that what Homeland Security is doing, is a privacy invasion. They are simply gathering information that is easy, quick and mostly accurate. It is simple to conclude, be careful what you post!

  7. IDR

    The concept of privacy only applies to certain people. It does not surprise me to hear about this; even the Lethbridge police are doing it. No one with authority now a day has problems accessing a person’s private info; the only difference now, is that the government is openly accepting they do it randomly.
    I agree that any information posted online without any privacy restriction is ‘open source’. People need to learn that anything that is posted online, whether is from a social media site or website, is available for viewing. Anonymous has shown us that no information is hard to get when you have the right people and the right tools. It is the people’s responsibility to secure their information, or not post it at all online. There will always be someone watching what others are doing.

  8. Jon

    I do not have a problem with Homeland Security’s current actions, but am aware that they have the potential to misuse this power.
    The thing about social media websites is that somebody who posts what they had for breakfast is not writing it with the intent to be private. In fact, they are most likely doing it for the opposite reasons (to get attention). I think a person who has concerns about privacy, doesn’t, or shouldn’t have a twitter or facebook account. If they do, then they should alter the privacy settings to the max, not reveal any personal information, and ensure that all posts are secret. As soon a someone posts a message on another’s wall, or sends out a tweet with a “#,” this information is open-source and is fair game. It is, in my opinion, a submission of personal privacy and it doesn’t matter who reads it. With the facebook post, you are giving permission for that friend to see your message. With that, all of his or her friends can now see that message. This could be a 200, 300, 1000 people. Friends of friends might be able to see it. The number quickly escalates. This is the risk you take. These social media accounts are ways to broadcast opinions, facts, information, etc. I think trying to “selectively broadcast” is a notion that interferes with its purpose. Encypted email might be a better option to consider, if privacy is your concern.
    I do have a problem if, as Lizzy (the reporter) alluded to, that the government has access to private information (as in, that not intended for public viewing). This would include personal messages (facebook) or direct messages (twitter). She said that they are “not supposed to” and I hope that they choose to respect this mandate.

  9. Jarrett

    I agree with Jon above. I feel like as long as the Homeland Security does not abuse this power, it is perfectly acceptable for them to search for information. My issue is that I feel like this is a cover up and they are actually monitoring certain peoples accounts and conducting investigations that are completely illegal and unethical. This is similar i feel to employers snooping on social media sites for current and future employees. When the information is public and is open for anyone to see, then i feel like it is perfectly acceptable, no matter who you are, and what purpose you are doing it for. Once that information is not public though, thats when a line is crossed and it becomes unethical and illegal. I feel like the Homeland Security has the technology, as well as the personnel that could use this power to their advantage and conduct illegal activities. However, up until the moment they go from public information, to private information, they are being completely ethical. Also, I feel like there are many other companies, and institutions that use social media for unethical purposes, especially marketers. However, if they get caught, they are punished. I feel like if the Homeland Security gets caught for unethical conduct in regards to privacy and social media, nobody will be punished.

  10. MJJ

    I do not feel that homeland security monitoring the internet for particular activity is an invasion of privacy. They already have access to phenomenal amounts information, plenty of which would be much more suspect or invasive checking facebook status or twitter updates. Similar to employers scouring the internet for information on potential employees, Homeland Security would be remiss not to check every source available. They should not, however, be misusing the information attain that way. Innocuous uses like trying to ensure that airport security is are running smoothly and not back up causing delays is fine. However taking the information gleaned from the internet and using it to stop people from travelling or putting them on watch lists based on that information is not a good use of resources. People do need to be cognizant of what they post on the internet and how those postings create a picture of who they are. They need to take responsibility for the impression they give to the public.

    However, that being said, I have a hard time believing that would be terrorists are going to post their plans for an upcoming attack as a facebook status or twitter update.

  11. Rose

    Everybody has access to any online social media like facebook, twitter, myspace etc, we all at one point connected whether directly or indirectly. For example those on my friend lists are friends to other friends. The chain of communication could be long, but at the same time it is short. Every users should be mindful of they post, comment, or write. Though we have some level of privacy to what we posted online, but all these social media are public network. My questions is, do I have a privacy on any public media? To some extent yes, but at the long run, the answer is capital NO. If the Home security is watching for any word on Health, Terrorism, Drug etc, the subscriber too are on the watching nobody want his or her company integrity to be at stake. We can only hide things from those we do not want to have access to our information, like friends or friend of friends, but to the company whose image we subscribe to, like facebook. Facebook can track anything down if the situation warrants it. Homeland is been security conscious to protect, guide and raise alarm of any threat of killing or bombing that would affect the society at large. Another question is that, how can you protect your tweet even though you have the access to security account? Who are you protect it from, criminals or friends? What kind of assurance do we have the subscriber that even though the tweet is secured, who can have access to it?

  12. Morgan

    I do not believe this is an invasion of privacy because every user is responsible for monitoring their own tweets; it’s no secret that anything you post online can be found by anyone. Once a user posts something on twitter, it has the potential to be seen by thousands of people instantaneously and the government is no exception. Most social media sites have the option to edit your privacy settings – and if they don’t, do you really want to be using that site in the first place?

    However, there is always the possibility that the government will not abide by the privacy settings put in place by the website and individual users. The video states that the government is not supposed to be reading protected accounts and private messages, but there is no way to know if the government abides by the rules. So, if the user does everything in their power to protect their online presence but their posts are still readily available for the government, then that would be an invasion of privacy.

    Every person who uses the internet leaves an electronic trail that can be investigated with minimal effort. If users are saying or doing questionable things online, then they should not be upset when they’re found out.

  13. neltum

    First and foremost we have to understand the reason why the government is doing such action. We have to be aware that this action has a main goal of protecting the interest of the majority. If the manifestation of this action can save a million lives, we don’t have the right to complain and fight because along the way this will be beneficial to us. I believe that this action is only a form of experiment for the government on how to control and supervise any form of calamities that we might encounter. With what happen during the 911, the government is pushing so hard just to eradicate the possibilities of another 911 accident. Generally speaking, I’m willing to lose my right to privacy as long as the outcome of it is security and protection of my family.

  14. Scotty

    As the video states homeland securities actions could be questionable, at what point can they justify their actions as legal when they are simply just “checking” on peoples social media information. When signing up for these sites, everyone is very aware that the information on them can be hacked into, and monitored by pretty much anyone who is skilled or very gifted with computers. This being said i think that most people are being more careful with the information they provide on these sites and are using different methods of communicating when it comes to more important issues. The government on the other hand is not retarded either and know what they can get away with in regards to looking into personal records, and if they see fit can get away with just about anything by justifying it as a “national security issue” in which they were only acting in the manor they were for the safety of the rest of society. I hope they remain respectful of peoples privacy and don’t push the envelope to far. At this point in history i don’t think that we need to worry to much but i do feel like its going to become a much bigger issue in the future

  15. Sarah Fletcher

    I don’t think this is an invasion of privacy in any way. Users of social media sites that make public posts are public. Even if the internet is large, it cannot be assumed that no one is watching what you’re postings. There are search options available to find certain topics of interest in individual’s public tweets or postings. If information is posted publicly then how can people be upset and claim it’s an invasion of privacy? I think that if there are matters an individual would like to remain private then posting these matters online is probably a bad decision on the user’s part. I think if users are upset by this then they should reconsider having accounts with social media sites to avoid this conflict all together. There are privacy settings available on most social media sites that are supposed to restrict the access to the users posted information. However, even if the privacy settings are set accordingly I still don’t think this gives them the right to privacy. The web is not always a secure place to be posting private information and therefore the public should take the appropriate precautions. I would personally not post anything online that I didn’t want someone to find. There will always be people that are more technically inclined and there will always be someone that can find it whether you want them to or not. I don’t believe anything is fully secure online.

  16. Awesomeness

    My opinion: If you’re going to post ANYTHING online, you cannot honestly expect it to remain private. Even if you up your privacy settings, there is still a chance that hackers of any kind can see that information. With the whole Homeland Security thing, I do think that it is completely unnecessary for them to be using any of that information. I mean, they’ve gone this far without it, so I’m sure they’d be just fine without it. I mean really, they’re going to search for information on how long the lines at the airport are? Sure they are….. I think the reasons they give are pretty weak. Anyways, my point is, I don’t really think any of us will have a choice. If Homeland Security chooses to search for our information or obtain any of our information, we won’t be able to stop them. Anything we post on the internet can become available to anyone with the necessary tools. However, again I definitely don’t agree with what they are doing – it is an invasion of privacy. They could easily misuse this information to their advantage. But really, the moral of the story: nothing on the internet is safe.

  17. JX

    I think it is a kind of invasion of privacy, but the level is not high. The information that people posted on Internet belongs to open source, so other people to see those information is legal. As long as people do not use other people information to make profits or do crime, that would be ok. I believe it is helpful for Homeland Security’s works. However, I still feel not so good if government or someone is always “watching” our Facebook or tweeter. Most people will worry about their purpose of “watching”, even they are government. We have right to doubt and worry if our information is misused. It is hard to completely solve this issue. Social network is one part of our life today. Real information is one of the reasons that we love social network. However, if we want to completely avoid the risk of “watching” our information, the most powerful way is that do not use social network website. I think it is impossible in modern world, so we should try to selectively post information and photos on Internet. I believe Homeland Security is watching someone’s social media account. I hope the information will not be misused.

  18. aaron

    It’s a scary thought that a private company with its own prerogatives can get paid to invade our privacy by the government. Where does it end. I have heard or people getting fired due to actions in their private life that were placed on facebook or twitter, such as drunk and bad behaviour, that companies did not want to be associated with. Between this, the less-private car, and identity theft, it’s a little easier to see how phobias are created. There has to be something to do with human rights that can draw the line for this privacy invasion. I just find it so ironic that humans go to war for freedom and reasons of the such, when we just hand our life over to the government through high speed cable lines and don’t think twice about it. Especially the fact that a private company is able to get this information just bring that much more error into this equation. I don’t know about other people, back where I grew up if you got a friend request on face book and it was so obviously false or fake, you assumed it was a police officer or someone of the such.

  19. Garang

    I DO NOT feel like this is an invasion of personal privacy because any information that is posted on social media is open for public. The typical information accessed by the Homeland security is not an invasion of privacy and even if so, they are doing this for public concern.I find this article a lot more informative in that, some people solidly believe that anything they post on facebook, my space and twitter can only be seen by their friends or only people customized into their privacy settings. This article is big shout out to them that social media networks can also be accessed by security personnel advertising companies and even in worst case scenario, by hackers who may find a wealth of information that I would consider as an invasion of personal privacy.

  20. Michael

    Obviously. I am not sure why people think they can post whatever they want and not be punished for it. Being public information it is accessible not even by the government but other organizations. If people do not want their info out their they should not be posting their information. I disagree with the fact they are collecting but it is unlikely to stop. Not only is the government collecting this information but the companies themselves are selling to other private or public companies that then use this information. This is the price we pay in this day and age where nothing we put in open space is free from being used against us. Even these blog posts are probably being sold or given to some agency that is then using it for some type of information mining. It’s an interesting scenario and not one i necessarily agree with as I like my privacy but it is unlikely to change. I am glad that the American government is doing it because if they were not only would they be behind the times but exposing themselves to weakness by not using data that can be used freely by organizations that choose to collect it.

  21. Josh

    I personally have no qualms with the government and their agencies looking into my information that is available on the internet. But the keyword in that sentence is looking. While there is plenty of opportunity for my info to fall into bad hands, this is all info that I have already made public and thus already considered the risks. So the way I see it is that pictures, quotes, essentially anything that I post to twitter or Facebook or any other social media sight are articles that I am already comfortable with the public viewing. I am aware of the stuff i make public prior to the government peeking in or any other body for that matter because I have already made it public. If i was sensitive about this info I wouldn’t have posted it to these sights! It may be harsh but if you are committing a crime and you are ignorant to flaunt it on the internet well you should just be punished for being stupid.

    An example of this would be the vancouver riots this past spring. The idiots who bragged and posted pics of themselves doing stupid stuff eventually faced repercussions and were able to be identified and dealt with thanks to social media. This wasn’t info that the government have to use extremely pervasive and stealthy techniques to gather. It was readily and publicly available.

  22. John McAllister

    I do believe this is a huge invasion of privacy. While I can see why they might want the information, it is not theirs to have and it is not what the United States of America was built upon. If the people running organizations like DHS are actually telling us the truth and are only monitoring for words like terrorism, tornado and bomb that is one thing. I however do not believe this to be true. First off if the United States government needs to check Facebook or Twitter to find out second or third hand information on whether or not there is a natural disaster occurring or whether there is a long line at an airport that they, along with many many other people are not doing their jobs. That is a load of crap. Secondly, I highly doubt that anyone actually planning a terrorist attack on the against the United States would publically mention it via social networking. If that was the case its likely their plans wouldn’t be much of a threat or secret information for that matter. It should also not be withing their rights to access peoples information around the globe. The internet may be world wide but the American government is not. I Say that knowing little about what access they actually have in places like Canada or Europe but it would not surprise me in the least to know they do. Uncle Sam has been around for multiple generations and is something that many people know about. The age of social networking has revolutionised this and is somewhat scary wondering about who might be watching?

  23. Claudia

    I think it is an invasion of our privacy because there is obviously not enough structure or security to ensure that any of this information is secure and not being used or gathered for the wrong reasons. If the government continues to outsource this work they need to be held responsible for this research company and all the information collecting. If this initiative is only about digging for dirt on our citizen then I would disagree, and although they say that not whats going on, who really knows and can ensure that this viral big brother doesn’t infringe on our rights and freedoms.

  24. smartpeople

    Everybody will see this issue, invasion of privacy, differently. This issue falls into a grey area where it is very easy to see both sides and agree with some aspects of both. We base our decision on this matter subjectively so nobody is right or wrong. I believe that we should trust Homeland Security in their actions, because this is what they do. They need to be able to use everything at their disposal, otherwise they are not providing a useful service to the public. Yes, this is ultimately an invasion of privacy. If they view anything you posted as a threat or a danger, trust me, they will invade your privacy. It’s true that if we exercise caution in the material we post and if we are law abiding citizens, we have nothing to fear. However, this will now violate our freedom of speech by creating a censorship on what we post. There are also people out there who will take advantage of this, post false information about events or people, simply for their own twisted entertainment. We should always be careful with these kinds of policies. You may end up singing a different tune if the results are not in your favor.

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