facebook-surveillence

If any of you out there are Facebook users, I thought I should warn you about something.
It’s a problem you might not have encountered yet, but may do in the future.

I haven’t been a FB user for very long, only since about eight months ago and only really to develop a FB page for this blog on the advice of a friend. Well, two weeks or so ago I tried to log in to my account only to be told I’d been locked out because Facebook had ‘detected malware’ on my computer. The only way to get back into my account, I was told, was to download the specific anti-malware software/scan that FB was recommending and let it scan my computer. Naturally, I was highly suspicious of this, as I already have two different anti-virus, malware detection programs running on my computer (Avira is very thorough), and they hadn’t detected anything.

Also, the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. For one thing, how and why would Facebook be scanning my computer in the first place – which it would have to have been doing if it detected malware. For another, why would it insist I download the specific software they were offering instead of giving me the option to run my existing anti-virus software?

I checked out Facebook’s official post notifying users of the new malware-protection policy and found hundreds of angry FB users who’d all experienced the same problem. This even included users who were on paid accounts for their businesses or charities. It also became apparent that a number of those who experienced this lock-out said it occurred specifically when they tried to post or share links or data of a particular nature;

  • For example, one FB user says: ‘I was on the page “Guns safety for every town” when this happened. Makes me wonder if this notice was politically motivated‘.
  • Another: ‘I just tried to share the “Justice for Candy Middleton” and also got locked out. Funny that the two pages that caused our accounts to be locked are those associated with wrongdoings of law-enforcement.’
  • Another: ‘I too just shared the Bundy Ranch Facebook page and instantly Facebook blocked my Maxthon Browser and will not allow me to log in with it.’
  • Yet Another: ‘Mine was also locked after Sharing Bundy Ranch page. Facebook needs to stop deciding things for us. We are perfectly able to make up our own minds on what pages we want to like, share or people we want to befriend. Stop policing us based on our views.’

For me personally, I was locked out after posting an article about the 7/7 London Bombings. Which forces me to wonder whether FB is trying to find an ulterior motive for beginning now to censor what goes onto the platform. Thousands of users reported the problem to FB and expressed their anger, but received no reply or explanation. At the very least, Facebook has obviously made a deal with ‘McAfee’s Scan and Repair’, Kaspersky Lab and several other companies/programs to force users to download their specific software, even if those users already have their own anti-virus or anti-malware software.

Several users reported that when they downloaded the software and ran the scan, one or more of the following happened; (1) it massively slowed down their computer from that point on, (2) the program disappeared and couldn’t be located anywhere on the computer to be deleted or uninstalled, (3) the program tried to make the user delete or uninstall existing anti-virus or anti-malware software on the computer. Most of those who reported on having used the software said that nothing discernible happened at all, and moreover that there was no status-bar, no progress update or anyway to track what was being done or to figure out when it was ‘finished’.

Someone suggested to me that the likelihood is that a third party, via Facebook, is trying to install surveillance software on specific users’ computers.

It is possible that once you install it, you can never uninstall it (particularly if you can’t locate any trace of it). The software of course scans and reads all your files, all your drives; in short, everything on your computer. This may simply be personal data surveillance by the back-door, which is of course highly troubling, if not very surprising. It also occurred to me that someone or something may have been trying to install malware on my computer. There has of course been plenty written about NSA surveilence, Britain’s GCHQ, mass surveillance and even targeted malware attacks. According to a report by The Intercept, the NSA “disguises itself as a fake Facebook server” to perform “man-in-the-middle” and “man-on-the-side” attacks and spread malware. It’s isn’t just an American problem either. The mass interception and surveillance of UK citizens’ activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google “is entirely legal”, according to government officials. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others have denied that the NSA has “direct access” to their servers, but there’s every reason to believe that mass surveillance via Internet platforms is occurring unabated, even in this post-Snowden world.

Of course, surveillance and sharing of meta-data goes on all over the Internet virtually all the time anyway and concerning your Google searches, social media habits, on-line shopping, etc; but, even so, there was something particularly suspect about an actual forced download of third-party software.

Unwilling to download their recommended software, after a few attempts to log-in to my account over a few days, I simply decided to abandon my Facebook page and leave Facebook behind, since having a FB page wasn’t that a big a deal to me anyway; and I was also aware that lots and lots of people were already migrating to Google-Plus anyway (which basically does everything Facebook does). However, a fortnight or so later, on a whim, I made another random log-in attempt – and got in. So, for no discernible reason, the account was unfrozen and I could simply carry on posting. Given that I didn’t run the scan or download the software, quite why FB would let me back in is entirely unclear, given it had previously insisted I had malware and couldn’t be allowed to ‘infect’ other users with it. Which simply confirms that there was no malware on my machine and that FB simply wanted to install things on my computer; once it realised I wasn’t going to take the bait, it presumably decided to let me back in again.

My advice to anyone else having this problem – or any of you who may encounter it in the future – is certainly to NOT run the scan or download any software (unless you actually do believe there’s a problem on your computer – in which case, run your own anti-malware software/scans on your machine/device first and see what it detects). Should it happen, you could try logging in using a different browser, try clearing all your cookies and history, or simply do what I did and *do nothing* and check in again in a few weeks.

And if you’re still unable to get back into your account, then just dump Facebook and go over to Google-Plus, Tumblr or some other platform. It’s clear anyway that FB, and possibly other platforms, are being used for surveillance and possibly for targeted malware attacks on specific users. If shit like this continues, it’s probably going to lose a lot of its users.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Neo-Pelagius says:

    I shared this on Facebook and got this reply from someone who knows about computers:

    ” If someone had something like this happen on a computer/account I could access, I suspect I would be able to identify if the cause was an NSA/GCHQ redirect, however most people even those who claim to be “security experts” would not know where to start looking and such claims are normally based on paranoia rather than reasonable evidence. The few who do know what to look for have contracts with the security services that they wouldn’t want to risk.

    I once had multiple computers all start behaving in a very unusual way that looked like a bug in a hidden malware infection, my attempts to isolate the culprit appeared to trigger what looked like a failsafe type behaviour. After I triggered it multiple times all of my machines powered down then “fixed themselves”. I was not able to collect any evidence to support my paranoia and have to assume there was some kind of glitch in the power grid that nobody else noticed.”

    Like

    • Thanks, NP. The problem he describes sounds very different though. I mean I’m not saying for certain this has anything to do with surveillance or a deliberate malware attack; just that the whole thing is very, very suspect and illogical.
      Thanks for sharing the post, by the way 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack Yan says:

    I was dumb enough to fall for this scam. The scan never finishes and in the hours it runs, goodness knows what it sent to other parties. My experience is here: http://jackyan.com/blog/2016/01/when-facebook-forces-you-to-download-their-anti-malware-your-own-antivirus-gets-knocked-out/

    And this is a potential reason: http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/nsa-pretended-facebook-spread-malware/

    There is a chance Facebook’s databases are failing, badly. I have just seen way too many bugs on that site that bear the hallmarks of a failing website. Since my experience, I have gone on Twitter to find others who were in the same boat. Many of them were heavy users, suggesting to me that, rather than take responsibility for fixing its site, Facebook is using this scam to slow some people down. And why not get more data on people while they’re at it? Shame that reputable companies are lending their name to this—though Kaspersky, when I quizzed them about it on its blog, opted to delete my comment rather than level with me.

    Have a look at this link: https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/edit/

    Even if you have your ad preference tracking turned off, Facebook will compile a big profile on you, possibly in violation of various marketing associations it’s a member of. I’ve already alerted a couple as I am sure this is in violation of their code of conduct. As Facebook wants to rival Google as a marketing machine, it could well go to very unethical ends to compile personal data from those who refuse to volunteer it. Google has done some underhanded things, which I have documented on my blog, and I forced their hand some years ago on its ad preference tracking. Facebook looks like it wishes to do the same thing—and deserves to be outed.

    A lot of this is guesswork, but with Facebook’s lack of ethics over privacy, personal safety and taxation, and its alleged collusion with click-farms and spammers, I do know what it says in its public statements (such as the link you cited in your post) can be totally fraudulent. The company is a giant smoke-and-mirrors machine, but it’s running out of juice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jack. What’s also messed up is this: it took me a couple of months to realise it, but – even though I DIDN’T download their software – I later discovered their McAfee program on my computer! It somehow STILL downloaded to my computer, even though I didn’t agree to it. And it kept trying to shut down my Avira anti-virus software. How messed up is that?
      Also, a further development now is that FB is asking certain users to upload scans of their passports, drivers license or other ID in order to confirm their identity. FB supposedly does it only when a user’s Facebook ID/name seems suspicious. As a result, lots of people are being locked out of FB or are simply quitting it because they’re unwilling to upload ID documents. It has NSA or surveilence written ALL over it.
      I’m pretty sure that the McAfee software *has* been acting as Trojan spyware on my computer. I’m also pretty sure my existing FB account will be blocked sooner or later too. I won’t care by then – FB has lost any charm it might’ve once had.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jack Yan says:

        Wow, I didn’t expect that it still downloaded—I can’t imagine how they could possibly defend that—though interestingly, when I downloaded Facebook’s Kaspersky scan, McAfee was what it knocked out! Seems one Facebook program will knock out another, and there’s a bit of karma there for McAfee. It affected McAfee very severely, too. Weeks later, this was still happening:

        http://jackyan.com/blog/2016/02/what-facebooks-anti-malware-malware-does-to-your-windows-10-computer/

        I’m glad you found the program though—I had to dig deeply but thanks to a thread on Reddit, I located the Kaspersky scan and deleted it, too.

        Facebook forced many friends of mine to upload government-issued IDs, and many left, just as you say. Two are drag queens, but this was after Facebook made its public apology (one of many false ones for PR reasons but it never backs them up with action—one link at http://www.newsweek.com/american-drag-queens-receive-apology-facebook-275166 ) that the drag community. One managed to get Sister Roma, who is active in the US drag community, on side, and Facebook restored her account; the other had to wait months, losing a lot of her business in the meantime. A third friend, a survivor of partner abuse living in Australia, left because Facebook wanted her ID—but there was no way she was going to use her real name on the website. Several others left on principle and who can blame them?

        I set up a back-door account to administer my pages and groups, since that is all Facebook is to me now. When I look at my news feed, I find things that I saw the day before, because it ceases to engage people and no one has posted anything new (and I have 2,300 friends on it). Personal status-sharing is down 21 per cent this year. You’ll be interested to know that as of last week, Facebook slipped to third in the Alexa rankings, beaten by YouTube. The tech press has been curiously silent, even though it covered Facebook’s rise to number one a few years ago—a position it held for mere days. Peak Facebook has been and gone, I believe. My profile might be one of those relics before long, a bit like the untouched ones I have on Myspace and Bebo.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for sharing a lot of good information here, Jack. Yes, I suspect FB may soon be a relic of the past.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s