John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom are particularly good at obtaining private Facebook data, a new map reveals.
Want to avoid the government prying into your Facebook? Then move to Barbados. There, tens of thousands of years will roll by before you even reach a 1 percent probability the Man will scoop private data from your account.
That's according to an occasionally anxiety-provoking map of Facebook security created by Anselm Bradford, a digital-media lecturer (on leave) in New Zealand and a 2013 fellow at Code for America – mission, "to improve the relationships between citizens and government." This enlightening cartography will hardly make privacy advocates want to snuggle with the bureaucratic machine if they live in the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, India, and Australia. These nations have the worst respective rates of governmental intrusion into Facebook accounts, to judge from the service's own admission.
For the first time this year, Facebook released a transparency report listing (among other things) the instances when it felt legally obliged to give a government "some data" belonging to certain of its billion-plus users. Bradford took information from the report, which covers the first six months of 2013, melded it with other statistics and whipped up his visualization for this month's EU Hackathon. He weights each country's ranking by its population, number of Facebook users, and frequency of official demands for data. Then he gives the amount of time that would pass before each nation's users have a great than 1 percent chance of being infiltrated by the CIA, NSA, GCHQ, FSB, or god-knows-what intelligence or judicial agency.
The differences among the countries are amazing. In Japan, the government made one spying attempt in the first half of the year and Facebook turned it down. Therefore, Bradford calculates, it would take "10,000s of years" for a Japanese citizen to entertain the remotest danger of a security compromise. (Other super-safe harbors include Russia, Uganda, Mongolia, Montenegro, and Botswana.) In the United States, it's a mere 51.5 years, due to the Obama Administration's world-leading 11,000 to 12,000 requests. Facebook granted 79 percent of them, making you wonder if the NSA has a modern-day version of the Choctaw Codetalkers to decipher all the ROFL, smdh, and dam ur hawt gurl they must encounter.
Here are a couple pulls from Bradford's map; be sure to visit the full-screen interactive version to see the global perspective. The United States:
Tiny Malta's a big snitch:
Images created by Anselm Bradford