Update: Anonymous members have called #OpFacebook a fake, denying responsibility. However, some have since gone back on this claim to say that while Anonymous members may be responsible for the attack the group as a whole is against it as they ‘don’t kill the messenger’.
The issue of privacy on Facebook has raged since its inception but with more changes to Facebook on the horizon, the issue is once again creating tension. In reaction to these upcoming changes, the ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous is threatening an attack on Facebook on 5th November 2011.
Releasing this latest threat on YouTube, Anonymous have stated that “everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your privacy settings” and that “Facebook has been selling information to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so they can spy on people from all around the world.”
Long before they became vigilantes in the Wikileaks cyberwars, Anonymous was originally founded in 2003 as an online collective with no official members, guidelines or leaders. The group has evolved and now has the goal of conducting large-scale online raids against governments and large corporations. Speaking out against Facebook and threatening to shut it down, Anonymous stated “Your medium of communication, you all so dearly adore will be destroyed”. But will Anonymous be able to influence the public enough to review their social media habits or will the average user simply agree to new Facebook privacy settings without a second thought?
Facebook’s own Joanna Shields, VP & Marketing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa said “The amount of things we’re sharing has grown exponentially. People share 5bn pieces of content each day”. When asked her opinion on storing personal data Shields responded “It’s more about educating people and making sure they understand the use of data, exactly what we do and being transparent”.
The latest changes to Facebook seek to enable the user to view their information more effectively but with actions such as the ability to view all your actions on Facebook in a timeline eyebrows are being raised about whether this personal monitoring has gone too far. “The new Facebook Timeline presents a scrapbook of everything you have done on the website,” says Graham Cluley, an analyst at Sophos, the computer security specialist. “This means, for instance, that listening to music via Spotify will instantly update your friends about what you are listening to”.
Along with this new form of monitoring, users have raised concerns about how their personal information is shared with outside organisations and more importantly, how they gain access and rights to their own information. One request from a Facebook user for all their personal information resulted in them being sent over 800 pages via cd rom. When the user noticed elements of personal information was missing and requested an explanation, they were met with a response quoting an extract from the Data Protection Act:
‘Section 4(12) of the Acts carves out an exception to subject access requests where the disclosures in response would adversely affect trade secrets or intellectual property. We have not provided any information to you which is a trade secret or intellectual property of Facebook Ireland Limited or its licensors.’
Online journalists and bloggers are now questioning how your personal information now seemingly translates into ‘trade secrets’ and ‘intellectual property’, igniting debate on the ethical implications of collating data for marketing advantages, business sharing and monitoring. With some social commentators coining phrases such as ‘information vampires’ and accusing Facebook of becoming more like ‘big brother’ everyday, are groups such as Anonymous necessary to draw attention to these privacy issues?
Will we see fireworks as Anonymous claims, “prepare for a day that we all go down in history: November 5th 2011”
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