Social Networking: Unpaid Government Informants

I have received a lot of feedback on my conspiracy theory post from last weekend about how social networking sites are the new Total Information Awareness.  There were a couple of comments made to the post and I have received a whole bunch of comments via email.  I will post some of that soon because there has been some good stuff.

I had another realization about social networking sites the day after my last post: they are populated with a bunch of unpaid government informants.  I came about this realization after I received an automated notification that someone on Facebook had tagged a photo with me in it.  So even if I don’t put up a bunch of information online for the government to mine – my “friends” can still do it for me.

There has been a bunch of articles in the news lately about people not thinking about what they put up on these sites and how that can come back to haunt you later in life.  I think it is also important to remember that other folks can put things online about you as well.

In the espionage business, there are four major motivating factors for spies (represented by the acronym MICE):

  • Money
  • Ideology
  • Compromise
  • Ego

Given all of the stuff going up on Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal and so on, I would have to say that the biggest motivating factor for these unpaid government informants is ego.

dan _at_

PS – To save folks the trouble of hunting around for the photo, here is the picture of “High School Dan” that went up online:



Here is a picture of “Current Dan” for comparison purposes:

High School Dan:

  • Actual age: late-teens
  • Apparent age: 5

Current Dan:

  • Actual age: early thirties
  • Apparently age: 12 (progress!)

Photo credits for the high school photo will remain anonymous (unless you want me to put your name up – just let me know)

About Dan Cornell

A globally recognized application security expert, Dan Cornell holds over 15 years of experience architecting, developing and securing web-based software systems. As the Chief Technology Officer and a Principal at Denim Group, Ltd., he leads the technology team to help Fortune 500 companies and government organizations integrate security throughout the development process. He is also the original creator of ThreadFix, Denim Group's industry leading application vulnerability management platform.
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One Response to “Social Networking: Unpaid Government Informants”

  1. Alan Weinkrantz


    You still look the same.
    Our collective emotional intelligence is somewhere around 15

    Good to see you last night!

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