Written By: Adam Peach
This week I stumbled upon a video shared by a friend about a feature on Facebook which “allows you to see a list of people spying on your account”.
At first glance, I didn’t think much of it at all. Knowing what we have been told about how the NSA, Facebook, Google and other data-mining entities are harvesting our information from credible sources and publications such as the Edward Snowdon revelations, I shrugged this off completely. This video was a man sitting at his computer in his home, instructing people to go to a search tool feature located in your “account settings” under the submenu “Blocking”. Once there, you will find a list of people you have previously blocked (or it will be empty if you have been lucky enough to have all positive interactions on facebook). The man in the video claims if you type “facebook security” and click “block” into the search bar, it will then show you a “list of people spying on you”. If anyone appears on your “list”, they will have “facebook security” included somewhere in their Facebook name or nickname.
With little investigation, you can see that some of these people with “facebook security” in their names have made public posts that they have been victim of hacking recently, and to not accept any bogus messages from them. The first two people I clicked on from my “spy list” had made this exact claim on their timelines about being recently hacked as you can see from my screenshots below. I had a very bad feeling that these people were about to get the trolling of a lifetime based on a completely confused theory, which in actually is just a myth. Created by people who simply do not understand something – so they fear it.
Screenshot of posts from hacking victims being cyber-bullied from false claims.
Some of you may be familiar with one of those people in the screenshots. Her Name Is Katherine Scholz. Born In Oklahoma City – she loves, to read, listen to rock music, cook and create recipes, and is an avid lover of cats and posting pictures of them.
This week she suffered a disgusting cyber-bullying attack for reasons she was completely unaware of, at first.
Imagine, all of a sudden messages start coming from people asking if you are spying on them. Some people actually threatening your life. Out of the blue. You are just at your job, making a living, minding your own business. Then your life is threatened completely at random. All of this after being victim to a recent hacking. Obviously, you can imagine the kind of fear this caused for her, or anyone going through this situation.
When your account gets hacked, you have no idea who did it or why or what information the hacker wanted. So imagine having this going through you mind, then all of a sudden you become victim to threats and extremely profane insults from strangers, completely at random. This, I can only imagine, must have been extremely traumatizing for Katherine and the other victims of this bogus myth. I reached out to Katherine, through a mutual friend we have on facebook in hopes of informing her of why she is possibly being harassed. Unfortunately, my guess was correct – Katherine was recieving a barrage of threatening and demeaning messages from people, and she had absolutely no idea why.
The bogus myth comes from two seperate internet sources. I reached out to the creator of the original video, posted by Youtube user “Daboo 7” to try to get a technical explanation for his findings. An actual technical explanation of how the search tool works was not given in the video demonstration. The man in the video just simply calls it “a way to find out who is spying on you” with no factual evidence or explanation.
After reaching out to “daboo 7” via multiple emails, he has not responded.
I reached out to the creator of the second video, Mike Kintner. Who maintains a Facebook Page in which claims it’s “a source of information”, “based on the FACTUAL findings I have & others aquired through RELIABLE sources”. His video, posted on facebook, repeats the same claims made in the original video posted by “Daboo 7”. I asked Mike if he had any technical information to back up his claims.
“No.” he said.
He told me he posted his video after watching the original, posted by “daboo 7”.
So, a random person on the internet without any technical knowledge or evidence whatsoever, just used fear and paranoia to convince hundreds of people to commit cyber-bullying and utter death threats to completely innocent, ordinary people – just like yourselves – based on a completely false claim. And they fell for it! Some of them even started posting victims’ information as what looks like some kind of “warning” for their other facebook friends, further spreading this ridiculous myth:
Imagine if you were Katherine, or any of the other victims of this harassment. Imagine if it was your spouse, or your child. All because it feeds into some kind of paranoid addiction people seem to have for mysteries.
The people who made these videos boast about being “factual” and having “reliable sources” when in fact, that is totally incorrect in this particular case. It’s also damaging to independent news sources who maintain integrity when it comes to factual information, during a time when many independent publications are fighting for legitimacy in the “fake news” era. You are not “waking people up” if you are spreading false and damaging information catering to some paranoid obsession.
Mike Kintner also told me he plans to upload another video on Facebook tonight.
Screenshot of The New Michael Kintners Wake Up America Facebook Page
Another person who fell victim to this – not nearly as bad as others, fortunately – is Anthony Beecher. I reached out to Anthony after Mike Kintner shared a screenshot of one of Anthony’s posts with the caption: “This guy seems to have all the answers…. but still unblockable”. The post was debunking Mike’s myth by using actual research he did himself about this issue when he too, like myself, had a bad feeling this would harm people and had a general understanding of facebook and it’s algorithms. That post got him a few unpleasant comments, as you can see in the screenshot below:
Screenshot of Anthony Beecher's post and comments.
This is what Anthony had to say:
“One unexplained observation is the search algorithm, we don’t know on what basis the results are matched. It seems like a different result set every time you search, and not all of them have the text “Facebook Security”. It may be they just do a broad scan for those words, and who knows what all they are looking at, or why it’s not completely consistent. Another early debunking realized that you can search for other terms and get matches, so I said, jokingly, “when I search for Free Money, does it mean that those people owe me money?” (Of course not, so why would matches on Facebook Security mean they work for Facebook Security). And logically, they own the database, if they want to spy on you, they can do that easily without you knowing it. They sure aren’t going to use a bunch of user accounts that say “Facebook Security” to do that!”
One thing is certain, there are people tracking your facebook accounts – And Google accounts, and other platforms. There are data-mining companies selling your information to advertisers and filtering what we see on the internet. One major source of this information is former NSA senior administrator Edward Snowdon, who leaked information about government surveillance programs such as PRISM. Let’s not confuse his leaked information with catfishing, or typical internet stalking.
As Anthony said, Facebook has complete control of its database and everything in it. They have access to everything you post. They do not need to hire people to make a public profile calling themselves the “facebook police” and “spy” on your every post. That’s not to mention, why do you actually think people are watching you? Are you a nuclear scientist? An international Spy? Someone connected to a national crime syndicate? Have you actually stopped for a moment and thought about how ridiculous it is that someone would be investing THOUSANDS of dollars into spying on YOU? For absolutely no reason.
We need to be concerned with who is watching us and who has access to our information on Facebook and the rest of the internet. Let’s not direct our energy at the wrong targets of this important debate.
Here are some videos I think are important for anyone wishing to learn about the real issues of internet privacy and who is actually watching: