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Surprising Science

Social Networks Facilitate Surveillance, Terrorism

The old balance between liberty and security is being played out online. The availability of social network data facilitates state and corporate monitoring as well as more nefarious communication.

What’s the Latest Development?

Facebook’s new Timeline feature, which encourages you to fill in the gaps between the time you were born and the time you started sharing your life on Facebook, will surely be used by advertisers to learn more about your personal life. Government access to data also worries privacy advocates like Eben Moglen who says: “We are creating systems of comprehensive surveillance in which a billion people are involved and those people’s lives are being lived under a kind of scrutiny which no secret police service is the 20th century could ever have aspired to achieve.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Using today’s easily accessible and powerful communication tools, those with more nefarious intentions are also able to achieve their ends with convenience. For the last ten years, Prof. Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa has conducted a study of public sites used by terrorist organization. This is one post he recently found: “I have a kilogram of acetone. I want to know how to make an explosive with it to blow up a military jeep.” A response promptly came on how to build a bomb using the liquid explosive.

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