Hackers Target Facebook Over Data Collection

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ADOTAS – Batten the hatches, Facebook! Apparently hacker collective Anonymous — which rapped up all kinds of media attention last year for DDoS attacks on the websites of MasterCard, PayPal, Amazon and others — wants to make sure the social network remembers, remembers the fifth of November. That’s the day Facebook is going down, according to a video uploaded to YouTube.

But wait — not everybody in Anonymous is on board with sinking the social network in commemoration of Guy Fawkes. Reporters that cover Anonymous’ activities note that the “hackitivist” group mainly converses with the media through Twitter and usually gives a few days’ warning when preparing attacks. The video appears to be the work of a faction calling itself OpFacebook or FacebookOp.

Tweeter GroupAnon, medium for media communication during previous attacks, wrote: “No one can speak for the whole of #Anonymous. There are some anons who support #OpFacebook whilst others do not.”

The “senior hacktivists” at Anonymous (although there’s no leader, apparently there is a hierarchy) are reportedly distancing themselves/denouncing OpFacebook. Interestingly, one #Anonymous tweet from another hacktivist resource, AnonOps, actually read, “We don’t ‘kill’ the messenger.” But OpFacebook considers the social network far more sinister than a messenger.

Anonymous, like the anti-establishment protagonist of “V for Vendetta,” uses a Guy Fawkes mask as its calling card. For those less versed in British history, Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament with a cellar full of dynamite on Nov. 5, 1604, in the legendary Gunpowder Plot. Ever since, on Guy Fawkes Day an effigy of Fawkes is burned on a giant bonfire to celebrate the foiling of the plot. However, Fawkes has always been an icon for anti-establishment movements.

And it’s easy to see why Facebook (and Google, for that matter) can be seen as establishment targets. You can read grumbles across the Internet regarding Facebook’s “cozy” relationships with the authorities — the company has handed over private data such as phone numbers to law enforcement officials when asked. The OpFacebook video goes so far as to allege the company sells information to governments and security firms (which is a lot scarier than advertisers, don’t you think?) .

But this group of hacktivists are also very concerned about Facebook’s data collection practices. During the video, a digitally altered voice says:

Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your “privacy” settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you “delete” your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time. Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more “private” is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family.

They have a point: there is way to exit Facebook without a trace. Even if you delete your profile, which has allegedly become harder to do since Google introduced semi-social network rival Google+, Facebook the company retains all the data. You’re not wiped clear off of their books.

As I’ve written before, that’s the price of Facebook — you pay for the service with your personal data. It’s all in the small print, in the tome known as the Facebook privacy policy. But the tradeoff isn’t obvious to most users, arguably because the social network does its damnedest to obfuscate the true cost of using Facebook.

Which makes you wonder, “What are they going to do with all that data?”

Facebook is definitely more than a messenger — it’s a business in the flourishing data market and it’s got a huge warchest. However, do you believe a hacker attack on the site will do anything to awaken the Internet consciousness to the lack of transparency in Facebook’s operation? Do you think it will force Facebook to come out and say, “Look, we give you all these cool tools, we take your data in exchange”?

I wouldn’t go that far, and I don’t support a hack attack, but I do understand the message. Facebook users need to wake up to the tradeoff.

There’s been no comment from Facebook on the OpFacebook threat, but I’d bet they’re shoring up the defenses — perhaps checking the cellar for dynamite? — in preparation for Guy Fawkes Day. You can never be too safe.

Here’s the video from OpFacebook:

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