Facebook warns developers against using users' data for ‘surveillance’ after recent revelations

Facebook updated its policies today to explicitly stop developers from using users data for surveillance.

The move comes after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published records showing the social media site and other social media platforms provided user data access to a company that marketed its products to law enforcement for surveillance purposes.

In a post on its Privacy Page, Facebook made it clear it would not tolerate the behaviour again.

“Today we are adding language to our Facebook and Instagram platform policies to more clearly explain that developers cannot “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.” Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer wrote.

“Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

Facebook is warning developers – and says it will take action
(Photo: Getty Images)

Facebook – and other social media platforms – give developers access to users’ public feeds to monitor trends and events.

Mr Sherman added Facebook had taken “enforcement action” against those developers who have been creating tools – and marketing them – to be used for surveillance, for months. Now he said, “we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

He also made clear the team had been working with American Civil Liberties Union of California, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice “for months”

The clarification from Facebook will be welcome after The ACLU released records in October last year showing that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram gave user data access to Geofeedia, a developer that uses social media to monitor locations to show what is going on in a given place.

Geofeedia had marketed to law enforcement to monitor activists and protesters, including those in Ferguson.

Facebook and Twitter cut off Geofeedia’s access following the news.

Facebook
Date taken via Facebook was being used for surveillance
(Photo: Getty)

The ACLU among other organisations supported Facebook’s move, though they have called for more to be done.

Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director at the ACLU of California, said in a statement: “Now more than ever, we expect companies to slam shut any surveillance side doors and make sure nobody can use their platforms to target people of color and activists.”

Here’s the full post by Facebook.

Twitter already took a similar action in November clarifying its policy saying it prohibits developers from allowing law enforcement to use its data for surveillance purposes. Doing so means termination from the social media platform.

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