Home > wikileaks > Giving personal information to websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Gmail is about as secure as putting it on “a postcard”

Giving personal information to websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Gmail is about as secure as putting it on “a postcard”

January 18, 2011

An Icelandic politician whose Internet records are being targeted by Washingtons WikiLeaks investigation warns that giving personal information to websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Gmail is about as secure as putting it on a postcard.”

They are on a fishing expedition,” Birgitta Jonsdottir told The Globe and Mail editorial board, making some of her first public comments since learning that U.S. prosecutors are after her Twitter account. Her private messages, credit-card and telephone numbers are all being sought from the social-networking site – and, almost certainly, from other U.S.-based Internet corporations, too.

The request speaks to how state secrets will be won, lost and protected during the Internet Age, where libraries worth of data can be uploaded onto thumb drives, and where unfathomable amounts of person-to-person correspondence reside on corporate computers inside the United States.

A freedom-of-information advocate, Ms. Jonsdottir, 43, became a crucial WikiLeaks volunteer in 2009, but left last fall amid fallings-out with the leadership of founder Julian Assange. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is now under tremendous pressure to charge Mr. Assange amid the deep embarrassment caused by the ongoing disclosure of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Assange, an Australian hacker now facing sexual-assault charges in Sweden, violated any U.S. law. But authorities are intent on pursing him, and to that end, are casting a dragnet around his correspondence and that of his associates – while citing an obscure 1986 law that allows detectives to seize such electronic records.

Ms. Jonsdottir doubts authorities will find out much from social-networking sites. “There is not much information about me there,” she said. But “I care for everybody else who is using a social network and is not aware that this can be going on in the background.”

She said that if people are using these services, they should know the information can be grabbed by authorities. It’s basically like writing postcards,” she said.

Prosecutors won’t comment, but clearly suspect that some correspondence might help them zero in on how WikiLeaks garnered the State Department cables.

Fittingly, this story broke via Twitter last Friday, where Ms. Jonsdottir posted the following message: “Just got this: Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to WikiLeaks).”

This is an unusual step. Internet companies are under no obligation to tell their users that police are seeking information about them. Twitter went an extra mile by disclosing this. “I’m very, very happy with Twitter,” Ms. Jonsdottir said. “I don’t know what’s happening with Facebook – and Google. I’m waiting to just hear if they’ve issued subpoenas.”

and

 

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: