Most people using Facebook to post status updates, chat with friends and share photos would never imagine they would be the target of government spying.
Yet earlier this week, Facebook announced it will alert users if it believes governments and their agencies are actively spying on their profiles, whether that's the US National Security Agency (NSA) or the People's Liberation Army in China.
"We will notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation state," said Alex Stamos, chief security officer at Facebook.
"We do this because these types of attack tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all their online accounts."
Stamos explained that the methods used to attribute severe threats could not be disclosed, and that users will be informed only "where the evidence strongly supports" nation-state involvement.
For Facebook to take this action shows just how far concerns over surveillance and government spying have come.
The PRISM problem
The origin of this can be traced back to 2013 and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's unleashing of a cache of classified documents.
The revelations continue to pour out of these leaked pages, but it was one story from 2013 about the PRISM mass surveillance programme that kicked everything off and forced tech firms to reconsider their services.
PRISM is a data collection system that drags in global emails, chat logs, video logs, photos, file transfers and log-in data from internet cables that pass through the US, according to the Snowden files.
PRISM was a shock for the major tech firms as they were listed as information ‘providers'. The documents clearly show when the data collection began for each firm, including Google (2009), Facebook (2009) and Apple (2012).
Despite resolute denials from those named, one thing was clear: the NSA was using these firms as a source of information.
David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said this underlines the importance of not over-sharing sensitive information on public sites and government swill use social sites to monitor people of interest.
"If you wouldn't like to see something on the front page of a national newspaper, it's best not to share it on Facebook or on any other social network. This includes information about the company you work for if it could be used by an attacker to sneak their way into your employer's network," he told V3.
"Don't assume that your social network accounts are immune from attack just because you think no nation state could possibly be interested in you, and remember that you lose control instantly of anything you post online, and it becomes public property."
Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, welcomed Facebook's move to improve user security, especially as for many web users Facebook is their number one site.
"For many of those to whom this notification will be given, Facebook is basically the internet. It's good that Facebook is bringing the issue up," he told V3.
"If the message is coming from Facebook that the account is being targeted, it could save numerous people significant grief."
David Damato, chief security officer at Tanium, also agreed it should help raise awareness among users to improve their security setting and make spooks think twice about attacking the social network.
"This new policy increases the cost to the adversary and will give a nation-state attacker pause to consider whether a compromise of a specific user account is worth potentially alerting that user and exposing highly secretive intelligence operations," he told V3.
Tech firms vs the government
Yet while users will likely welcome anything that adds to their security it's unlikely governments that do use Facebook to monitor citizens, for whatever purpose, will be so thankful.
Loz Kaye, the former Pirate Party leader who now heads up technology and politics think tank Open Intelligence, said Facebook's latest move is just another example of the "ever increasing standoff" between governments and tech firms.
"On one hand we have security agencies insisting that social media companies should be doing more to assist them by retaining data and proactively detecting threats," he told V3.
"On the other hand, post-Snowden, the big internet players are keen to convince their users that they are taking privacy and data security seriously."
Facebook's move to improve user protection in this way isn't the first time it's undertaken such actions. In June it said it was introducing Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption into its messaging service to boost user privacy.
This strengthening of user security comes as governments and law enforcement agencies across the world attempt to curb encryption. Indeed, high-level bosses at the FBI and GCHQ have publicly condemned tech firms for introducing encryption.
It is here where the disagreements between governments and technology firms are easiest to see.
FBI director James Comey recently described the increase in encryption as "going dark", while prime minister David Cameron has weighed in on the debate, asking rhetorically: "In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?"
Facebook's newest move then, to warn users of active nation-state spying, is hardly likely to go down to well with those in the corridors of power.
Yet, as Kaye notes, Facebook's decision to warn users of state spying could actually put more pressure on it to monitor communications.
"It's a significant move for Facebook to maintain they have the capabilities to identify state actors with some degree of certainty. This may in turn increase calls from governments for social media to be more proactive in identifying criminals and terrorists," he said.
Its clear that Facebook has picked a side in the privacy argument, despite the ongoing outcry from law enforcement, but whether other social sites will do the same remains to be seen.
V3 contacted Twitter and LinkedIn and asked whether they plan to introduce similar nation-state notifications but received no response. But given Facebook's stance it wouldn't be surprising if they too were working on such tools.
Two years is a long time in technology. In 2013 the tech sector was accused of working alongside cyber spooks to share user data. But now these firms are actively rebelling against the idea.
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