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Too much social media networking: Paranoia of Big Brother surveillance may destroy ya

Nov 16, 20116 mins
Data and Information SecurityEnterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

The biggest cybersecurity agency in Europe peeked at the future, 2014, to predict the effects of online social media connectivity 24/7 and concluded that too much social networking could make you paranoid and feel like you are constantly under surveillance by Big Brother.

If you think 24/7 connectivity is nothing new for you, and you constantly check in on Foursquare, use location-aware apps, update Facebook or other social media statuses with your geo-tagged photos, then you probably have no location-awareness sharing issues and are not overly concerned if you lose locational privacy. In the year 2014, your futuristic automated smart home can update statuses for you; even more personal data will be logged coming from emerging technology; interaction with the power grid, smart meters, IP TVs, smart appliances, movie theaters harvesting emotions, robots, GPS in cars and smartphones, and products that stalk you will create a life-log. By 2014 there will be a plethora of programs, mobile apps and devices to track you that will create and store records of your movements, activities and behaviors; this is the scene that Europe’s biggest cybersecurity agency studied “to predict positive and negative effects of online ‘life-logging’ on citizens and society.”

In the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) report, “To log or not to log? Risks and benefits of emerging life-logging technologies, the agency used a 2014 fictional family’s day-to-day lives and examined the “impact for their privacy and psychology as they put ever more personal information online.” While you might not call it life-logging, it’s not too farfetched as many people track personal data generated by their own behavioral activities. In one ENISA scenario, a person would have rather walked out of the house naked than without her phone to update online statuses. In another, the bathroom mirror scrolls with your daily calendar, the weather, keeping track of and posting statuses when you awaken, your mood and your personal hygiene. Exercise equipment and your kitchen appliances also track and automatically post social media statuses.

According to ENISA analysis, “Information security related risks may have serious connotations on privacy, economy and society, or even on people’s psychology” and shows how those (privacy, social, legal, economic, etc) “aspects are highly interrelated, and should be examined together.” The benefits of “life-logging can bring families and friends closer and for a longer period of time.” It reduces “individuals’ sense of isolation” and enhances communication and “the building of social bonds among people.” But advertisers will happily gobble up all that personal data generated and will push a “higher degree of context- awareness and personalization of services, which in its turn, would mean competitive advantage for those who have control over this data.”

The down sides of social networking gone wild with a flood of personal behavioral activity data? Loss of privacy and control over data, financial fraud and “mobile devices, sensors or services become more attractive targets for attackers. In future Internet scenarios there is a related loss of autonomy risk,” ENISA reported. For government and industry groups there is an increased risk for “corporate espionage and corporate disruption. An evil-doer, a hacker or an attacker attempts to glean personal information which individuals put ‘out there’ and to use such information as a way to hack into or attack a company or government department or a network. On the other hand, companies may use such tools to monitor the activities of their employees.”

The deluge of data from logging your life has other dangerous risks “such as psychological damage, related to discrimination, exclusion, harassing, cyberstalking, child grooming, feeling of being continuously under surveillance (paranoid behavior), pressures related to work performance, peering into other peoples life etc.” In other words, too much social media networking and you might think Big Brother is constantly watching you; paranoia will destroy ya.

But social networking surveillance is not farfetched as the government increasingly uses social media to gauge public opinion and citizens’ input to political issues and other policies. For years there has been a tainting of public opinion with “weaponized information” into social media conversations and search results. The EFF warned that Big Bro wants to be your buddy on social networking sites, especially if you might be what Ntrepid called a “true influencer” in the presentation, Anatomy of a Social Network: Finding Hidden Connections and True Influencers in Target Data. That ISS World Americas teaching track was meant for “intelligence analysts and law enforcement agents who have to ‘connect the dots’ between people, places and other entities by searching through various data sources from data text to information on behavior patterns.” This is all in order to “perform appropriate analysis to determine relationships, hierarchy, and organizational structure of co-conspirators and identify individual involvement in criminal and/or terrorist activities.”

‘Ninja librarians‘ aka CIA analysts mine and track “the mass of information people publish about themselves,” including 5 million daily tweets and Facebook. Open source intelligence, OSINT, is the name of the game for criminal investigators and intelligence analysts “now that the Internet is dominated by Online Social Media.” 

So what’s paranoid to you? Tenable Network Security’s Marcus Ranum said, “One person’s ‘paranoia’ is another person’s ‘engineering redundancy’.” ENISA believes “that an informed user is the first step: the right to be forgotten, right to be let alone etc, are probably best enforced if the user is in control over his/her personal data.” The flipside is spamming government agencies with too much information like the “FBI, here I am” approach where Hasan Elahi’s constantly updates the FBI of his movements. Graffiti artist Banksy said, “You’re mind is working at its best when you’re being paranoid. You explore every avenue and possibility of your situation at high speed with total clarity.” But one of my favs was said by the EFF’s John Perry Barlow, “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a Peeping Tom to install your window blinds.”

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.