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Which countries spy on social media?

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

04 May 2014

It’s very likely that anyone who feels like it could right this minute find out where you live, where you work, whether you’re in a relationship, where you went to school and whether you like Alice Cooper, Diplo or Belgian jazz. Anyone, anywhere in the world may be able to find this out about you.

We share so much of our personal information on social media that it’s almost staggering to consider. In terms of online security, we all take a huge risk by giving out so much information – and if strangers with no insider access to your information can find out so much about you, what can governments and ISPs find out about you when they have a greater control over the platforms which you share so much about yourself?

It’s terrifyingly common for governments to spy on their own people through social media these days, but some countries are more guilty of this than others. Here are some of the worst offenders.

1) Russia

You’d think that hosting the Olympics and slowly creeping back into the Crimea would be enough for any country in 2014, but Russia have also managed to spy on all the visitors to their country this year through the System for Operative Investigative Activities, or SORM.

SORM and the law that made it legal allows the Russian government to collect and store every single bit of data and information that passes over a Russian network – and that includes phone communication as well as online communication. It seems that in Russia, not only your social media presence is a security risk. Even owning a phone is dangerous.

2) Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe’s government claim that their motivation in asking all phone and net companies to begin saving information on their users was to fight crime, but it seems more likely that the database is part of a plan to track down anti-government activists. Scary stuff.

3) Iran

Friendly phone companies Nokia and Siemens have been accused of assisting the Iranian government in widespread surveillance of the Iranian people, and the government itself is rumoured to have access to people’s email accounts as well as their social media accounts. Facebook and Twitter have particularly been highlighted.

4) New Zealand

Yes, unfortunately Australia’s friendlier neighbor is also in on the social media surveillance game. The Government Communications Security Bureau in New Zealand has been collecting information on the citizens of New Zealand, and the government even changed the laws to make their surveillance a lot less illegal than it previously was.

5) France

According to Le Monde, a French newspaper, the French government has been engaged in the same type of online surveillance as the US government and the NSA, meaning that French social media users can unfortunately count themselves amongst those being spied on through their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The French government denies these allegations, but the claims have led many French citizens to abandon their social media accounts altogether.

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