(NaturalNews) In a lot of respects the digital age has been a boon to mankind, in terms of boosting productivity and the introduction of amazing new technology that has made life easier and much more enjoyable. But so much capability has also come with a price, and in the case of top social networking site Facebook, that price is heavy one: your privacy.
Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks Web site, which has published enormous amounts of classified documents over the past several months, said in a recent interview that Facebook is anything but the innocuous interaction site it claims to be. In fact, he insists, the site's data collection capabilities - which are tremendous - are being exploited by the government, and you're set up to become the big loser in all of this.
Labeling Facebook as "the most appalling spying machine ever invented," Assange told Russia Today things about the site that should make any current user pause.
"Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, and their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. Intelligence," he said.
Facebook isn't alone in the effort, Assange said.
"Facebook, Google, Yahoo, all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for U.S. intelligence," he claimed. "Not a matter of serving a subpoena, they have an interface they have developed for U.S. Intelligence to use. Now, is the case that Facebook is run by U.S. intelligence? No, it's not like that. It's simply that U.S. intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure to them. It's costly for them to hand out records, one by one, so they have automated the process."
What's more, he says, any time a user updates their profile, adds friends or otherwise reveals more personal information, they "are doing free work for U.S. intelligence agencies."
If that surprises you - and it should - consider these other revelations, and maybe what Assange is saying isn't such a stretch after all.
It's not as though Facebook hasn't been caught up in privacy and security issues before. Under the guise of claiming to protect users' privacy, Facebook has long collected all kinds of personal data and has then sold it to advertisers, so they can target your page with ads based on that information.
Did you think the ads that pop up on your page which are tailored to your specific interests are an accident?
What's more, the company claims the information they provide to companies is anonymous. But that's not so.
"Companies can combine the 'anonymized' information from your profile with personal data gleaned from tracking cookies and other online traces to create dossiers about you that offer a level of personal detail the National Security Agency would envy," says longtime technology writer Dennis O'Reilly.
A paper written by researchers Balachander Krishnamurthy of AT&T Labs and Craig E. Wills of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute contains evidence and documentation supporting O'Reilly's claim. It concluded that "the indirect leakage of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) via OSN (Online Social Network) identifiers to third-party aggregation servers is happening."
Moreover, Facebook has also been blamed for revealing personal details about millions of users to scores of companies and advertisers through their various apps. The BBC reported that one info-gathering firm, Rapleaf, was passing along user ID information garnered from the apps.
Perhaps more telling is the fact that Facebook has no intention of stopping these practices, despite company protestations to the contrary.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, which focuses on all types of privacy issues, said in a March Web memo that the social network informed Rep. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Barton (R-TX) "that it will go forward with a proposal to provide users' addresses and mobile phone numbers to third-party application developers." This "may include the home addresses and mobile numbers of minors who use the social networking service," EPIC said.