Could the San Bernardino Massacre Have Been Prevented with Facebook?

Published: Dec 15, 2015 10:56am EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Technology

Please Note: This article was updated Dec 15, 2015 @ 05:08pm EST


In light of the recent domestic terrorist attack carried out by the husband and wife team of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino, which killed 14 innocent people earlier this month, investigators believe a simple Facebook check could have averted the attack. One of the terrorists, Ms. Malik, was on a visa and passed three background checks and no alarms were raised during those background checks despite social media posts on Facebook and Twitter supporting violent jihad.

Investigators are currently scouring the social media accounts of both attackers and uncovered Ms. Malik had acknowledged her allegiance to ISIS on the day of the shooting. Counter-terrorism officials are now making efforts to find out if Ms. Malik had a history of such activity on social media platforms in the past, which could have been uncovered if social media checks were a part of the visa application and approvals process.

The issue at hand is Ms. Malik used a pseudonym and had strict privacy settings in place that did not allow people outside a small group of friends to see the pro-jihadist messages. Though investigators are trying to trace the electronic trail of the killers and making efforts to determine who they interacted with online, how they came up with their plan and why, it seems unlikely at this point authorities will uncover much more without the assistance of certain social media companies, namely Facebook and Twitter, providing unfettered access to their accounts and information, as well as the information of those they interacted with.

What this could potentially open up the door to, something which the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have long wanted, is unfettered access to social media accounts and end-user information that’s been subject to privacy rules and expectations up to this point.

What do you think? Should government agencies have open access to your social media and other online accounts under the veil of fighting terrorism? How far is too far when it comes to balancing, and outright risking, an expectation of personal privacy in the name of security of the State? 


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