The social networking sites are some websites that help people to connect. They are online communities where people join for free and are given an opportunity to open a page and given an opportunity to setup their profile. Some of the popular social networking sites are Myspace, Facebook among other sites. These sites allow people to make friends, find friends, chat, send messages, up load photos among other functions. Social networks existed before there was MySpace and Facebook. There existed sites such as Classmates and also SixDegrees that in the late 1990 were important in social networking. The social networking sites became popular in 2005 and since then more than half of the American population have joined MySpace or Facebook and other social networks.
In the United States of America the government through the federal enforcement agencies like the CIA, is authorized by the Communication Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, to have access to all phone calls, internet traffic including all messages, emails, chat messages unimpeded.
It is believed that the American government does a computer surveillance of all the social networks and the internet. Computer surveillance is the act where the authorities monitor and supervise the population for a specific purpose or reason on their computer activity and of the data the transfer over the internet. Almost all internet traffic is monitored today to check for any illegal activities that may be going on in the internet.
Those who support the surveillance of social networks and other internet sites argue that it is important to do this as it helps to identify terrorist and criminal elements. It also helps in protecting the society from these criminals and terrorist. Computer crimes have been on the increase, most of this computer is perpetrated in the social networks like Facebook. Computer crimes are crimes that involve computers and an established network. They may also refer to a criminal exploitation of the internet services. These crimes may include hacking, child pornography, grooming of children and infringement of copyrights.
Computer crimes in social networks include a lot of illegal activities. These crimes can be classified into two; crimes that target the network of computers and crimes that are perpetrated by computer networks or other devices. Some crimes that target computer networks and can be spread through social networks are computer viruses, malware or denial of service attacks. Other crimes include cyber stalking, fraud, identity theft, phishing scams among other crimes.
Computer data will provide good evidence; it will be a good or excellent device for record keeping. Encrypted data can obtained and decrypted, this can provide great evidence in criminal investigations. The data kept in the internet and social networks cannot be lost and so the government can if need be, be used in a criminal investigation. The data can also help in crime detection and prevention of these bad crimes.
Social networks like Facebook can easily be use in fraud, which is a dishonest and wrong representation of facts. This in social networks is very easy as it is very easy to post any profile and give any information, these information can be used to deceive others. This will help the fraudster to enter false data, destroy or suppress and also steal information this will be difficult for normal people to note as the fraudster personal information is wrong. Other frauds maybe identity theft where one mascara ides as someone else and presents himself with someone else identity. On social groups it is very easy to use someone else identity with a lot of ease. Extortion is another form of fraud that can be used in social networking sites. Therefore the government justifies its effort on having access to all the information on the social networking sites and the internet in general as these information can be used at a later date to identify the perpetrators of the crime.
Social networks can be used to spread distasteful, obscene and offensive information. Many administrations have limits to specific speech like racist speech, political subversion, crimes of hate, inflammatory material, slander, sedition and other crimes that people might use in the avenue of social networks to spread. In 1994 in the genocide in Rwanda the media was used to spread hate speeches and contributed to a mass murder of more than one million people. In social networks, people can easily join groups based on religion, region, ideology, art, tribe and all sorts of groups. In the world we live in where hate is the order of the day, these groups if not controlled can be disastrous and may lead to serious conflict with negative consequences.
Social networks can also be used for harassment, these will be in using of derogatory statements on particular individuals or groups focusing on their gender, race, their religion, their known nationality or their sexual orientations whether homosexuals or straight. This usually happens in chat rooms by the use of newsgroups. Where individuals send hate messages to particular parties.
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Drug trafficking is now a days becoming very popular in the social networks. This is more popular due to lack of face to face communication. The drugs are sold through encrypted messages. This happens through chat rooms where there is minimum contact and is hard for one to know who they are dealing with. Therefore the governments need to come into these so as to check on these crimes.
In surveillance of social networks maps of social networks are created, the maps are based on the information from the site as well as from the analysis of traffic. These maps give useful information on personal interests, the friends one has and also his or her affiliations as well as his beliefs and activities. This may be important information in tracking criminals and terrorists.
Critics of social network surveillance argue that it is not necessary and cite the concerns of privacy and some state the concern of if there was to be a totalitarian state political dissident would suffer due to their information in their social networks. It may also lead to Electronic Police State where the state uses electronic technology to record and organize forensic technological evidence against its citizenry.
Millions of people are using social networks like Facebook and Twitter and others, many of this using this social networks end up disclosing a lot about their personal lives. It is unfair that the information that they put in these sites is not secured and the government agencies have access to it.
Though in opposition of the surveillance in social networks also argue that surveillance is not the answer as the people who intend to use the social networks irresponsibly will easily be able to do that, through looking for other ways to achieve their goals. Therefore the normal and innocent user of a social network suffers from the effect of state intervention because of a few criminals.
They also argue that there is a lot of information in social networks both good and un pleasant, therefore users of a social network should be well educated on how to choose the information and on what to believe. Insensitivity in social networks whether racial or religious is usually an opinion of the minority and most of the time is not true. Therefore a good moral education is important rather that surveillance of other peoples activity.
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The social networks and internet as a whole has become part and parcel of people’s lives, therefore privacy as well as security are of the essence and imperative. Millions of Americans are posting their personal information on the social networks innocently with no ill intention. This information should be protected and their right to privacy protected. The acts of a minority should not be used to punish the masses. The policy makers should educate the social network users on the importance of using these sites responsibly.