Individuals use social networking to communicate with each other; businesses use social networking to communicate with customers, employee candidates, and each other. But how does the government use social networking?
If you're like me, you probably haven't thought about it all that much, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation and University of California-Berkley's Samuelson Clinic want to find out. Computerworld reported Wednesday that the organizations filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint to learn more about how the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Treasury, the Central Intelligence Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence use social-networking sites for surveillance and other data collection.
While the wealth of information on the Internet can be great for solving and preventing crime, for instance, too much information-gathering could result in invasions of privacy, Samuelson Clinic law student Shane Witnov told Computerworld. From the complaint:
Although the Federal Government clearly uses social-networking websites to collect information, often for laudable reasons, it has not clarified the scope of its use of social-networking websites or disclosed what restrictions and oversight is in place to prevent abuse.
The only agencies that have not produced guidelines, policies and other information regarding the use of social networking, the story says, are the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency -- for national security reasons, of course.
The question I want to dig a little deeper on is this: Who defines what constitutes abuse of social-networking sites in a case like this? Stay tuned.