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Facebook Forbids Developers to Use Data for Surveillance


Woman with notebook looking through Facebook

Facebook announced on Monday that it recently updated its platform policies. Following those changes, the company will now block any surveillance attempt on the platform. Facebook is going to do this by forbidding developers to use data from the social media platform in order to spy on people. This decision comes right after numerous civil rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union or Color of Change pressured Facebook to make it harder for agencies to collect data on users, especially without their consent.

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Facebook is contradicting itself

However, the Monday announcement comes off as very contradictory to what the company has been saying for quite some time. More precisely, Facebook has been adamant that those surveillance companies were not breaking any of the company’s policies. Mainly because they used data which the users made public. For example, back in November, the ACLU revealed that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were providing user data to Geofeedia. This is a surveillance company which in its turn, also provided hundreds of law enforcement agencies with data from Facebook users. It is interesting to note that through Geofeedia, the police could locate certain users. They could even obtain their photos and run them through face recognition software.

Now, it seems like Facebook has decided to do something and blocked those developers from using any user data. Still, according to Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman, those changes do not necessarily mean that the police cannot obtain your personal data from social media platforms. It is common knowledge that Facebook and many other such platforms need to provide the authorities with data if they need it for an investigation. So, basically, nothing has changed.

Your personal data is not that personal

No matter their policies, Facebook is still collecting data from its users. They may not give it to developers, but they still have it. The platform uses specific systems in order to establish a user’s race and religion. What can anyone use that info for? Identification of potentially dangerous individuals belonging to one race or religion. So, if the authorities were to ask for extensive information on certain such users, the platform will surely give it to them. However, sometimes, even those systems can get things wrong. There is one rather famous example of a journalist who Facebook deemed as being part of the terrorist organization Hezbollah. So, if the police were conducting an online investigation at the time, they would have found that the journalist had links with Hezbollah. It was just a mistake, but it happened.

All in all, in many ways, Facebook already owns all of its users’ personal data. Whether they like it or not, it is a reality. Apart from that, the platform knows where you like to go. Also, what friends are you hanging out with, plus their races and religions. Even if the company makes efforts to make it clear that they changed their policies to protect their users, people should know that their personal data is not that personal. It never was, actually.

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