Psst! Your Facebook Is Being Attacked--By Government Agents


Are government spies looking over your shoulder on Facebook?  If so, the social media giant says it will warn you.

“Starting today, we will notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state,” Facebook Inc. said in an Oct. 16 blog entry entitled, “Notifications for targeted attacks.”

According to the post, Facebook Inc. will warn users if it has a “strong suspicion” that their account is being targeted or compromised by suspected state-sponsored actors. Facebook said that although it has “always taken steps” to secure compromised accounts, it decided to show this additional warning because attacks by government-sponsored entities “tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others.”

What Facebook didn’t say was whether the new policy meant it was no longer handing users’ personal information over to government agencies.

In 2013, disclosures by Edward Snowden on the scope of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance revealed a clandestine surveillance program called PRISM. The PRISM program allegedly provided the NSA with access to the systems of Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Apple Inc. and other technology heavy-hitters. It was alleged that these companies provided “master keys” to decrypt their traffic or the NSA found other means—such as hacking—to do so.

Following the Snowden revelations, Austrian law student Max Schrems asked the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate if his data, transferred by Facebook, might have been turned over to the NSA. The case was then referred to the European Court of Justice by Ireland’s High Court after the Irish Data Protection

Commissioner refused to examine Schrems’s complaint.

In September, the ECJ invalidated the 15-year-old U.S.-EU Safe Harbor program, following a European Court of Justice advocate general’s advisory opinion, which found that the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Program didn't protect the privacy rights of EU citizens in the face of “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” by U.S. security agencies. 

Following the Oct. 6 decision by the ECJ, the Ireland’s Data Protection Commission agreed to look into the complaint.

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