Facebook Data Policy Update Will Curb Surveillance of Users

Under pressure from the ACLU and other advocacy groups, Facebook announced it would not allow law enforcement and third party vendors to use its data for surveillance purposes. Facebook did not define surveillance in the update to its data policy, but police have reportedly been using the social network to track protesters and activists. In October, the ACLU published documents from startup Geofeedia that detailed how the location-based, social media analytics platform tracked protestors in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri.

The documents “showed how police were able to track social-media activity in specific neighborhoods and get real-time alerts through Geofeedia,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “The firm also urged police to follow hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

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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,” said the ACLU’s Nicole Ozer.

Facebook taking a stand with law enforcement underscores the increasing value of its user data and the role the company is taking in disseminating massive amounts of information.

While increasingly valuable to advertisers, brands and developers, the expanding data collection has also created problems for Facebook, even leading to an amendment to its advertising policy that prevents marketers from targeting consumers by ethnicity.

“After the ACLU’s investigation, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter banned Geofeedia from using the platform,” notes WSJ. “Since then, Facebook has cut off other developers from using its data for creating or marketing tools meant for surveillance.”