Facebook: Your Orwellian Community


Richard Moore

If you use Facebook you need to check out this video:


Original source URL:

Big Brothers, Big Facebook: Your Orwellian Community

A few days ago I stumbled across a couple articles mentioning TheFacebook, and a
little start-up capital they happened to get in the sum of $13 million. The 
number intrigued me, so I did a little more research, a little more stumbling, 
and found something that even I still have a hard time accepting. So, here's 
what I came up with:

(p.s. - I'm hoping that someone from EFF or people concerned with privacy rights
will take notice. This really worries me and a lot of my friends.)

TheFacebook.com, created in February of 2004 by 21 year old Harvard student Mark
Zuckerberg, is a student social network now active at more than 800 campuses, 
with more than 2.8 million registered users. [1] Among its features, TheFacebook
allows a user to upload a picture of themselves and can include information 
about their favorite music, books, movies, their address, phone number, e-mail, 
clubs, jobs, educational history, and even political affiliations. Facebook is 
extremely popular, attracting on average 80 percent of a school's undergraduate 
population. However, there are some questions raised regarding privacy concerns 
on the site, and when some digging is done to find out who is really behind the 
site's management, there are more questions than answers.

The first venture capital money to come into TheFacebook, $500,000 worth, came 
from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, founder and former CEO of Paypal. [1] A 
Stanford graduate and former columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Thiel is 
author of the book "The Diversity Myth," [2] which received praises from notable
neo-conservatives such as William Kristol. [3] In fact, Thiel is on the board of
the radical conservative group VanguardPAC. [4]

Further funding came in the form of $12.7 million from venture capital firm 
Accel Partners. Accel's manager James Breyer was former chair of the National 
Venture Capital Association (NVAC). [1] Breyer served on NVAC's board with 
Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, [5] a venture capital firm established by the 
Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. [6] This firm works in various aspects of 
information technology and intelligence, including most notably "nurturing data 
mining technologies."

Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research and 
development firm known for spearheading the ARPANET, or what we know today as 
the Internet. [7] In October of 2004, Dr. Anita Jones climbed on board, becoming
a part of a firm packed with leaders from other areas of Silicon Valley's 
venture capital community, including none other than Gilman Louie. But what is 
most interesting is Dr. Jones' experience prior to joining BBN.

Jones herself served on the Board of Directors for In-Q-Tel, and was previously 
the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of 
Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as an advisor to the Secretary of
Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

While the nearly $13 million that came from Accel to fund The Facebook certainly
looks suspicious and unfortunately disturbing after reviewing all of this 
information, the only problem on the surface seems to be the appearance of some 
incestuous relationships between the Pentagon, the CIA, and these venture 
capital firms. But this goes further than just the initial appearances. DARPA 
shot to national fame in 2002 when John Markoff of the New York Times announced 
the existence of the "Information Awareness Office" (IAO). [8] According to 
Wikipedia, "the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as 
possible about everyone, in a centralized location, for easy perusal by the 
United States government, including (though not limited to) Internet activity, 
credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical 
records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns,
and any other available data." [9] Protests came from civil libertarians on both
the right and the left who saw the IAO as a new Orwellian arm of the United 
States government. After Congress investigated DARPA's project, funding was cut 
off and IAO was essentially dead in the water.

The Information Awareness Office seems to have survived some of its original 
purposes in a mutated form, found in today's Facebook. In fact, one of IAO's 
original example technologies included "human network analysis and behavior 
model building engines," [10] a surprising echo of the social networking mapping
that Facebook does using SVG visualizations. [11] Add that to the information 
that Facebook collects and compare it to the startlingly similar goal of the 
IAO. It appears at first glance that DoD, along with the CIA, has managed to 
circumvent its previous Congressionally established limitations and find 
corporate sponsorship for its programs, under the thin veil of a useful social 
network for unwitting college students.

And those college students continue to log on to TheFacebook, completely unaware
of the massive affronts to their privacy. The so-called "Privacy Policy" [12] of
Facebook includes a statement saying that they "may share your information with 
third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a 
relationship." It goes on to say that, "We may be required to disclose customer 
information pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or 
in compliance with applicable laws. Additionally, we may share account or other 
information when we believe it is necessary to comply with law or to protect our
interests or property. This may include sharing information with other 
companies, lawyers, agents or government agencies."

Some of the aspects of the privacy policy are downright creepy and confusing. 
This particular gem is especially disturbing: "Thefacebook also collects 
information about you from other sources, such as newspapers and instant 
messaging services. This information is gathered regardless of your use of the 
Web Site." And there's no telling when the privacy policy may change. As of when
this was written (July 1, 2005), the policy was effective as of June 28, 2005.

Who knows where the information they collect about these three million college 
students, alumni, and professors is going, or what they intend to do with it. 
The fact that these companies and agencies are all so closely related, and that 
The Facebook has almost no organizational transparency are all cause for 
concern. Hopefully we can soon uncover the truth.

[1] "Accel Partners Invests In Thefacebook.com" [Accel.com]

[2] Peter Thiel's book, "The Diversity Myth" [Amazon.com]

[3] Kristol's commentary, as well as others, can be found here:

[4] VanguardPAC Board of Advisors [TheVanguard.org]

[5] In-Q-Tel - About Us [In-Q-Tel.org]

[6] "Jim Breyer of Accel Partners Elected Chairman of National Venture Capital 
Association" [NVCA.org]

Link (PDF)

[7] General Catalyst Partners :: News - "BBN Technologies Appoints Dr. Anita K. 
Jones to Board of Directors"

(This includes information about BBN's involvement in ARPANET, as well as Jones'
past with DARPA and In-Q-Tel)


[8] New York Times - "Many Tools Of Big Brother Are Now Up And Running" by John 
Markoff and John Schwartz, December 23, 2002, Late Edition - Final, Section C, 
Page 1, Column 2 [NYTimes.com]


[9] Information Awareness Office [Wikipedia.org]

[10] The Internet Archive's archived page of DARPA's Information Awareness 


[11] Thefacebook.com FAQ - Visualizations [Thefacebook.com]

[12] Thefacebook.com Privacy Policy [Thefacebook.com]

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