Sunday, April 10, 2011

using Facebook to find terrorists?

Ever get freaked out about the lack of privacy on Facebook? Do you feel like "big brother" is able to watch us a little too closely through our social network profiles?

Normally, I would be the first to agree about being concerned with what we are accidentally sharing (and to whom) on Facebook. Not everyone needs to know what I decide to share with my network, and I believe we should keep our sharing to a minimum anyway, mainly to spare everyone else the boredom and ourselves the embarrassment.

Speaking of people who share too much, lets discuss the case of Sundullah Ghilazai - an alleged terrorist who boasted his dastardly plans all over the internet, and thankfully for us, got himself arrested.
Back in December 2010, Facebook user Sundullah Ghilazai was arrested by US federal authorities after boasting on the social networking site that he'd use explosives on the Washington DC public transit system. Several bomb threats were made in the area, and Ghilazai and his internet boasting fit the profile for the prospective terrorist. Even if he wasn't - the details he shared publicly on his profile are enough to raise several red flags. However, it wasn't until an informant contacted the authorities that Ghilazai was arrested.

The informant reported that Ghilazai disclosed to him some disturbing details about his possible violent plans through the private two-person Facebook chat feature. Ghilazai's Facebook interests and photo albums  contained a lot of material regarding AK-47's, tents filled with explosives, and hateful commentary. Had Facebook's privacy controls been even looser than they are, would this man have been pinned as a terrorist sooner?

Granted, terrorism will exist Facebook or no Facebook, how do you feel about the sites' privacy issues now? Would you rather have everyone's information be somewhat public in order to catch people like Ghilazai, or do you value your privacy above potential safety threats?


  1. I don't know how I feel about this. I definitely see the benefits (catching terrorists before catastrophic events) but at the same time privacy is a big concern and I think it's only going to become more controversial as the rate that people share their information on social networking sites increases.

  2. I totally see your point. I also feel like this could feed a lot of unnecessary hype - we tend to get really worked up over potential terrorist attacks, turning them into something that they aren't. I do however feel like this guy was a serious threat and I'm glad that the authorities caught him in his stupidity.

  3. Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.