In a bid to return to the days of ‘big brother is watching you’ the Homeland Security Department has put out an advertisement online seeking developers to build an app that can monitor social media and track activities of individuals.
As per the document accompanying the requirement of the “FBI Social Media Application,” the project is to create a program with the capacity “to rapidly assemble critical open source information and intelligence … to quickly vet, identify, and geo-locate breaking events, incidents and emerging threats.”
The fact that of recent activist groups like Anonymous, and companies like Apple have been accessing user information without consent, only strengthens the logic of the move, more so in the light of terrorist activities, the use of social media by terrorist organizations, and the need to protect citizens.
As expressed by Frank Ciluffo, who spearheads George Washington university’s Homeland Security Policy Institute, “If you’re in law enforcement’s shoes, and certainly if you’ve got a counterterrorism organization, I wouldn’t see why they should feel that anyone else can monitor but they can’t.”
Expressing concerns over undue government monitoring Ciluffo said to Fox News, “We’ve got to figure what is the right balance between privacy and security. And I’m not sure we, as a country, have addressed that question. When you’re dealing with known foreign terrorist organizations and sympathizers and known terrorists, to me that’s a cut-and-dry kind of case.”
However, according to civil liberties groups, it’s a move to destroy everything a democracy holds precious in the name of protecting it.
Mike German, an ex-FBI agent says the information can be used for neighborhood video surveillance, “Part of what we want to protect is the freedom to speak your mind, to criticize government policies without fear that the government will take it the wrong way and start treating you as if you’re a threat.”
German fears true concerns are not being addressed properly according, at least, to the 12-page document calling for development of the program. He says, “Even where you’re talking about published information, information people intentionally put out there on the Internet, we still have a right not to have that monitored y the government. The government really doesn’t have any interest in tracking someone’s Twitter account if they’re not doing something wrong or suspected of doing something wrong.”
However, the requirements of the program imply automatic monitoring of large social network and data without the means of segregating between targets on the first round of data collection, since the intention is to pre-empt the happening of crime, rather than to react post-event.