According to my spy novels, the title of this post is short for “human intelligence.” Fitting, because I learned today that the Central Intelligence Agency has a Facebook page, the National Clandestine Service.
Now, an article on Ars Technica discusses the ways a social networking site like Facebook could be used by spy agencies to study social interactions and patterns, perhaps in the fight against global terrorism.
However, the article also reports on the conspiracy theories surrounding Facebook’s CIA connection. Some apparently believe that Facebook is a government-run project to collect personal data on American citizens and to track our friends and relationships.
Is Facebook a front for a government spy program? Probably not, but those spooks are pretty sneaky. Still, would it stop people from going to the sites if they were owned by the government? Or would another site just pop up to replace Facebook with the guarantee that it was “non-spy”?
Maybe the lesson to take from this is that if you provide people with a forum where it is easy to share their personal information, they will do it. And once they’ve gotten a taste of sharing like that, they are likely to keep doing it even after the particular site folds.