Facebook Updates Privacy Policy Amidst Police Surveillance Fears


As fears of police surveillance rise, one of the world’s largest social media sites has actually updated their privacy policy to better protect user data.

Several groups, including the California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Media Justice, and the Color of Change organization recently called on Facebook to provide more privacy for users, specifically citing an instance where police departments gained access to Facebook’s developer platform to track protesters.

In response to the accusations of misuse of personal data, Facebook updated their privacy policy to prohibit company data from being used to spy on users (primarily tracking their current physical location). Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, announced the changes in a recent post on the Facebook policy page.

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” his post read. “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.” Twitter adopted a similar policy last November, and Instagram recently as well. Twitter specifically called the notion of user privacy a “great concern.”

The updates mostly stem from an October 2016 report from the ACLU that stated Facebook and Instagram data was used by law enforcement to create a real time map of protestors in Baltimore. As police tapped in to social media data, they could see where violent incidents were occurring and even head off crowds as they moved.

“Social media monitoring is spreading fast and is a powerful example of surveillance technology,” the report said, “that can disproportionately impact communities of color. Social media companies and their executives have expressed support for activists, movements and free speech… Yet there is a severe disconnect between these positions and the data access they have provided.”

In that same post, Facebook thanked the organizations that helped shape their new policy, and said they would continue to work to make user safety and privacy their main goal.

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