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March 14, 2017updated 19 Jul 2022 9:51am

Facebook data surveillance to be curtailed with new privacy policy

Facebook has come out against developers using the site's massive amount of data to create surveillance tools

By Joe Clark

Facebook has updated its privacy policy to prohibit software developers from using data gathered from the social network to create surveillance tools.

Facebook and Instagram have introduced a new privacy policy with the hopes of curbing law enforcement surveillance. In the past tools have been used by law enforcement agencies to identify protesters, unions, and other groups in order to stifle them.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were all chastised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last year, after reports emerged that law enforcement agencies had been using data to track protesters in Ferguson, MO and the Standing Rock protest.

Facebook Privacy issued said in a statement: “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. 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 news has been welcomed by civil rights and civil liberties advocates who believe that mass surveillance of social network has been utilised to stifle and prosecute protesters.

Last year the ACLU released government documents that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram had provided huge amounts of user data to a software developer, GeoFeedia which then used the data to monitor demonstrations including Black Lives Matter. GeoFeedia has worked with over 500 law enforcement agencies according to the ACLU.

In a statement Nicole Ozer, Technology & Civil Liberties Director at the ACLU of California, said: “We depend on social networks to connect and communicate about the most important issues in our lives and the core political and social issues in our country.”

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“Now more than ever, we expect companies to slam shut any surveillance side doors and make sure nobody can use their platforms to target people of color and activists.”

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