Facebook Forbids the Use of User Data for Surveillance
Bohs Hansen / 8 months ago
Last October, an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that a company called Geofeedia had analysed data provided by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to supply the police in Ferguson with surveillance information. That created a lot of uproars and only Twitter overhauled its policies to try and stop this at the time. After a lot of pressure, Facebook finally announced that they’re now also forbidding this kind of data usage.
Facebook knows a lot about you, probably more than most of your friends and family. From the information you provided freely in your profile, to your preferences and likes based on reactions to posts and the chats you have with your friends – just to mention a few things. That is a lot of information, and a lot of that is made freely available to developers. It is easily accessible and it was this information, which has been neatly packaged up for developers, that Geofeedia used and analysed in order to find trends in users’ behaviour.
The updated Facebook policy now states that developers cannot use data obtained from either Facebook or Instagram to produce systems that can provide surveillance capabilities. Under its Platform Policy, it now says: “Don’t use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.” Having such a policy in place is great, but it also needs to be enforced. Another question is, does this apply to government and law enforcement sponsored surveillance too? Probably not.
While this is a step in the right direction, I doubt that it will have a lot of impact in any way. Sure, it is forbidden to use the information in that way now, but that doesn’t stop anyone from doing so. Especially not those who deem themselves holier than the rest or just want to make a profit.