- Feb 9, 2007
Julian Assange(Credit: Screenshot from "60 Minutes" interview)WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are actually tools for the U.S. intelligence community.Speaking to Russian news site RT in an interview published yesterday, Assange was especially critical of the world's top social network. He reportedly said that the information Facebook houses is a potential boon for the U.S. government if it tries to build up a dossier on users."Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented," Assange said in the interview, which was videotaped and published on the site. "Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence."If that's the case, it might surprise some that WikiLeaks has its very own Facebook page. In fact, last year, when WikiLeaks released a controversial batch of confidential documents--putting Assange on the run--Facebook refused to shut down that page. The company said at the time that the page did not "violate our content standards nor have we encountered any material posted on the page that violates our policies."Facebook's response stood in stark contrast to the treatment of WikiLeaks by many other companies in the U.S. last year. Several firms, including PayPal, blocked the company's accounts.But Assange didn't just stop at Facebook. He also told RT that in addition to the world's largest social network, Google and Yahoo "have built-in interfaces for U.S. intelligence.""It's not a matter of serving a subpoena," he told RT. "They have an interface that they have developed for U.S. intelligence to use."Surprisingly, Assange didn't mention Twitter, another major social network with which his organization has run into trouble.Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department sent a court order to Twitter, requesting the social network deliver information from accounts of activists that allegedly had ties to WikiLeaks. In March, the Justice Department was granted access to those accounts following a judge's ruling in favor of the seizure. Last month, the Justice Department said that complaints over its desire to obtain Twitter information is "absurd," and its actions are quite common in criminal investigations.However, the Justice Department didn't secure a search warrant for access to the information. Instead, it obtained a 2703(d) order, allowing investigators to secure online records that are "relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation."For U.S. intelligence, getting information from Facebook is much easier, Assange said in the interview. He reportedly told RT that the U.S. intelligence community's use of "legal and political pressure" on Facebook is enough for it get what it wants.
"Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them," Assange said, according to the RT interview.For its part, Facebook disagrees with Assange's sentiment. In a written statement to CNET, a Facebook spokesman said that it does only what's legal--and nothing more.
"We don't respond to pressure, we respond to compulsory legal process," the spokesman told CNET. "There has never been a time we have been pressured to turn over data [and] we fight every time we believe the legal process is insufficient. The legal standards for compelling a company to turn over data are determined by the laws of the country, and we respect that standard."
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