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Facebook Updates Policy To Ban Devs From Using Data For Surveillance

13 March 2017, 10:25 pm EDT By Vincent Lanaria Tech Times
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Facebook is putting its foot down and banning developers from using its data for surveillance.

After some urging from the American Civil Liberties Union, the social media company has updated its platform policy to make it more straightforward than before how the restriction is in effect.

"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,'" Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook, said.

The ACLU, Facebook, And The Surveillance Tool Geofeedia

In October 2016, a report by the ACLU uncovered that the police was using a surveillance tool called Geofeedia to acquire data from not only Facebook but also Twitter and Instagram. At the time, law enforcement relied on the tool to keep tabs on protests involving people of color in Oakland and Baltimore.

The ACLU pushed for all companies to take measures that'll ensure anything similar to the incident won't happen again.

As a result, Facebook has made changes to its policy to comply, saying that it has worked with the ACLU, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice to implement the policy update.

Meanwhile, it should also be pointed out that Vice President and General Manager of Data and Enterprise Solutions at Twitter Chris Moody addressed the issue back in November 2016, clearly stating its stand regarding the situation.

"Using Twitter's Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited," he said.

Putting The Surveillance Issue In Perspective

Straight from the horse's mouth, here's how the ACLU describes the matter at hand when it comes to law enforcement keeping surveillance.

"When technology companies allow their platforms and devices to be used to conduct mass surveillance of activists and other targeted communities, it chills democratic dissent and gives authoritarianism a license to thrive," the group said, applauding Facebook for the policy update.

Just to be clear why this move is more or less necessary, Facebook used to give developers access to public feeds, which are mainly for keeping track of trends and events. However, one unscrupulous developer took advantage of the situation, creating surveillance tools targeted at protesters.

Other Facebook News

It's worth mentioning that Facebook has rolled out other significant features recently, including but not limited to allowing businesses to post job listings, which could be sparking up a competition with Microsoft-owned LinkedIn; launching Lumos, the AI that can find photos by understanding their content; and setting its crosshairs on TVs everywhere.

Recap

When the ACLU identified and laid out the repercussions of mass surveillance in social media, companies in the industry responded by taking appropriate measures that prevented the police from continuing to monitor people's activities.

In this case particularly, Facebook opted to ban developers from accessing its data for surveillance purposes by making changes in its policy.

If you have an opinion about Facebook's update, feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

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