The Retro-Scope is Engaged

The NSA’s data-pile represents a retro-scope that can be used to investigate anyone backward in time. In an earlier posting, I described how it can be useful in political hit-jobs against anyone with even a ghost of a skeleton in their closet. Guess what?

Boulevard Saint Germain, Bruno Barbey 1968

Boulevard Saint Germain, Bruno Barbey 1968

Law enforcement is asking for Facebook data about arrestees in anti-inauguration riots. Presumably, that will enhance network analysis: see who’s whose online friends. And the NSA’s data-pile is now available to other federal agencies to request trawl-throughs “prior to the privacy protections being applied” (whatever that means) it’ll be possible to see who else they talked to, and when, and what they said.

Also: facebook pictures are a great application for facial recognition.

Photographer Bruno Barbey was down in the streets during the 1968 riots in Paris. So was 6-year-old Marcus Ranum; we were staying at a friend of the family’s house on Rue Du Bac, about 5 minutes walk away. Barbey was horrified to discover, years later, that the French secret police had used his photos to identify the protesters.

Barbey: [guardian]

Paris Match magazine published photographs that showed police violence against protesters and this led police to chase photographers and take their cameras. There were cases when photographs of students throwing stones were used by the police to identify and arrest them. So the students also started to be nervous around us. I made sure that any recognisable faces in my photos had black marker over them.

John Sandovy Budapest, 1956

John Sandovy Budapest, 1956

There are similar accounts of John Sadovy’s photos from the barricades in the Hungarian uprising of 1958: once the uprising was crushed, the secret police went through the photos and identified as many insurgents as they could. [Sadovy]

The US’ not-so-secret police are collecting pictures and social media network information about protesters. Per Citylab:

More than 230 protesters had been arrested that day, and many—including the individual who’d received this email—were charged with rioting and had their phones seized by Washington, D.C., police. The police have been holding Inauguration protesters’ phones since the arrests. [citylab]

They don’t need the phones because of call records; they can get that from the phone carrier. They probably want social media identifiers and the pictures off the cameras.



my mad photoshop skillz.

my mad photoshop skillz.

The Hungarian secret police shut down their archives, and shredded all their old files. [1] Do not assume the NSA will be deleting any data, ever.

If you are going to participate in a riot, do not get photographed, do not go in a group, do not discuss your plans online with your friends first. The reason law enforcement has so much trouble with “lone-wolf” criminals is because they don’t run in packs.

If you’re anti-government, you may as well paint a target on your back, if you’re a present or past user of social media.


  1. Siobhan says

    I don’t think any of this is about the riot, Marcus. The reason the charges have been condemned is because it’s a “charge first, ask questions later” approach, which is a literal upside down of due process. It was reportedly the Black Bloc that engaged in vandalism, and they had an all black dress code. We had better hope that pictures is what they’re looking for, because if liking a police accountability group is suddenly enough to convict someone with rioting, that’s a special level of fucked.

    Well over half the arrestees pictured from the Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression were wearing colours.

  2. says

    if liking a police accountability group is suddenly enough to convict someone with rioting

    I don’t think that they’re going after the police accountability people: what they’re trying to do is map social networks so they can figure out who the black bloc are. Then they’ll strip-mine their communications and identify them. I hope the black bloc’s got good tradecraft, that’s all I can say.

  3. says

    I just read today, well skimmed, a story about the feds doing just this very thing – they are going to start going through social media to look for “dissidents”. Given how this is being defined, nazis will be safe, everyone else? Not so much. As always, there’s a lovely piece of tape over Athena’s camera, and I’m happy happy to not be on FB. All that said, your advice is beyond sound. These are not days to be overflowing with plans and info on social media.

  4. says

    Also, really reminded of Pratchett’s Night Watch. The difference between Reg and his overwhelming desire to be a revolutionary with all the bells and whistles, and Ned Coates, the close-mouthed real deal. I need to read that again, for the zillionth time.

  5. Siobhan says

    Indictments passed down for 219 out of 230 arrested.

    Again, I stress, over half of those pictured in the alleged rioter kettle wore colours. Police didn’t even catch the two protesters linked to torching the limousine.