Facebook etcetera, the new Zapitski

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

On the cold morning of December 16, 1968 a woman who was crossing a street in Berlin, Germany, suddenly stopped in front of a taxi. The vehicle knocked her down and she eventually died from injuries she sustained from the incident. The police identified her as Ute Schwarz, and among the stuff in her handbag, they found a telephone number belonging to a man who claimed to have been a casual acquaintance of the now dead woman. He also claimed they had some brief moments together in a certain hotel. He gave police details of that hotel. In the meantime because no one apart from the owner of the telephone could provide any other useful information about Ute Schwarz, the authorities buried her. At the room she had spent time with the gentleman, police found her passport and other documents with which they were able to trace her to her town and to her actual house. There they met another Ute Schwarz, fitting the description of the dead Ute alive and well and in high spirits, a bit shaken though when she was told that she had died elsewhere.

Before this incident took place, the Cold War was at full throttle. The protagonists and antagonists and vice versa – the USA, UK, the defunct Soviet Union and East and West Germany, all participated in clandestine operations to spy on and steal sensitive data from one another. While the data collection capabilities of the British and the USA were said to be massive, none compared with the gargantuanness of the Soviet Union. In one of the then KGB buildings, four underground floors housed the Zapitski division. Zapitski is Russian for ‘notes’ or ‘cards’ and it stood for the Central Index and Archive of the Soviet Intelligence Service. It was said at that time that if the authorities were interested in you, they collect information ‘not merely on the person immediately concerned but of their relatives, their friends, neighbours and associates at work’ – and that information included the primary, secondary and tertiary schools you attended, the name of your mother and father, your brothers and sisters, your cat or dog or if you played badminton or chess. Information so collected was used to create alter identities with which the one spy agency of the one country infiltrated and gained access to the secrets of the agency of the other one country.

The Soviet Zapitski became moribund, but it certainly has been resurrected and put to even more sinister use by its new owners. And this is how it is – first, even though the Berlin Wall had collapsed the old suspicions that necessitated the creation of a hotline for and between President Kennedy and Khrushchev of the defunct Soviet Union remained. Their spy apparatchiks were no longer needed for the nonce of gaining access to the archives of the other country, but the structures and institutions remained and are still being used. They have morphed into dating sites and social media like Badoo, Facebook, and etcetera. Recall that in the past few weeks before the death of our illustrious Chinua Achebe, CNN, the BBC, Aljazeera, and most of the prominent international news centres were agog with gist that the Chinese had hacked into the database of The Times Newspaper and as well as military secrets of the US. Second, with the collapse again of the defunct Soviet Union and the balkanisation of its former territories, the Russian Zapitski fell as well, only for the American and British Zapitskis to inherit and replace it as the behemoths of information and intelligence gathering.

And so today, when you log on to any internet dating site or a social media platform, you are required to provide very private data about yourself that you have no idea who you are giving that information to. You are even required to provide photographs. In so many cases as well, you engage in discussions that you think a third party is not privy. How mistaken you are. And for a fact, what you do really, and under the illusion that you’re on a dating site or on social media, is that you willy-nilly offer yourself up to these elite intelligence gathering agencies like the CIA, KGB, M14 and even to local security authorities. In the days of old, these people would suffer and starve for the information you just throw at them, in my opinion, to boost and enhance your egocentric inclinations. This info you wantonly provide whether you like it or not may be stored in a retrieval system and called up anytime and any day.

There are inherent and lasting dangers here. Under the circumstances, we should cite the murder of Cynthia Osukogwu and how her killers were apprehended. But we shall not do so. We shall paint the scenario of a young lad born today, 25th March 2013. His enthusiastic parents

Instead we shall ask you certain questions – one, who really is Mark Zukerberg, aka the founder of Facebook? How old is he? How possible is it for a school drop out and for a chap less than forty years old develop so novel an idea just for the sake of socialising? Did he really ‘originate’ Facebook or is he just a front for an elite intelligence network? I hope you find answers to these questions. If you do, I know you will be much more circumspect before wantonly displaying such very personal information as birthdays, photos of newly born children and their birthdays and etcetera.

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