Facebook wants people to know that it doesn’t want its data used for surveillance.
The world’s largest social network updated its developer policies Monday to make it clear that its data should not be used for spying on people, after reports last year that its data — and the information of users of Instagram, its photo-sharing service — were used by police to track activists and protesters.
“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” said Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook in a post Monday on the company’s U.S. public policy page. “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.”
The ACLU reported in October that Geofeedia, a Chicago-based, CIA-backed company, used data from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to help police keep tabs on protesters against police violence, especially activists “of color,” in places such as Ferguson and Baltimore. The companies cut Geofeedia’s access off shortly after the ACLU report.
The ACLU also reported last year that cops were using other social media-related tools to track protesters in San Jose, Fresno and elsewhere in California.
Facebook said Monday it has worked for months with the ACLU, Color of Change and the Center for Media Justice on its policy update.
“We commend Facebook and Instagram for this step and call on all companies who claim to value diversity and justice to also stand up and do what’s needed to limit invasive social media surveillance from being used to target black and brown people in low-income communities,” said Brandi Collins, campaign director for Color of Change, in a statement included in the announcement Monday by the ACLU.
However, Facebook also said police and federal agencies may still use its data in case of natural disasters and emergencies, according to the Washington Post — which said it is unclear how Facebook will decide what constitutes an emergency. In addition, the company cooperates with law enforcement in certain cases when presented with a subpoena, court order or search warrant.
Photo from Associated Press