Facebook Thinks This Paragraph Will Keep Companies From Monetizing Your News Feed

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Facebook says it is now explicitly forbidding third parties from using its data for surveillance purposes, yet it is not exactly clear how it will enforce such a policy.

“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,” the social media tech giant announced Monday on one of its official accounts. “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 reiterative declaration is likely an attempt to pledge the company’s commitment to safeguarding data from law enforcement’s grasp.

Facebook, like Twitter, allows developers access to users’ public feeds in return for monetary compensation. Developers get value out of the data by monitoring trends and public events.

But some data analysis companies team up with law enforcement agencies. Dataminr reportedly signed a contract with the FBI, allowing the bureau “to search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters,” according to the Federal Business Opportunities official government page.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced in October that it obtained records showing that Twitter and Facebook provided user data (specifically location) to Geofeedia, a developer and purveyor of a social media monitoring product. The data was then used by police to track minorities in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, according to the ACLU.

“We currently work with over 500 law enforcement and public safety agencies,” Geofeedia claimed, according to documents obtained by the ACLU of California.

“We are pleased that after we reported our findings to the companies, Instagram cut off Geofeedia’s access to public user posts, and Facebook has cut its access to a topic-based feed of public user posts,” the ACLU wrote. “Twitter has also taken some recent steps to rein in Geofeedia though it has not ended the data relationship.”

Facebook’s update to its platform policies seems to be a way for it to double down on its promises to not let users’ data get in the wrong hands. But how Facebook will actually prevent a third-party from doing what it wants with provided data is not yet known, as the announcement appears to just be “adding language” to its policies as a means of clarification.


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