Social Media, You Are Being Watched!

According to a recent report from Reuters, Facebook and other social media sites are monitoring users chats for criminal activity and alerting the police if they notice anything suspicious.

The sites use scanning software that automatically monitors users chats for words and phrases that signal something is potentially wrong such as an exchange of personal information or vulgar language. The “Smart” software is also taught to scan for specific  phrases found in previously obtained chat data from criminals and sexual predators and pays particular attention to chats between users who are not well established on the site and whose profile data indicates something may be untoward, such as a large age gap and no family connection.

The sites security employees are notified of suspicious chat exchanges when the software flags them up and they then look deeper into the matter to determine whether or not the police should be notified.

The said monitoring of users chats has attracted much criticism from privacy advocates but it`s worth bearing in mind that, according to Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan in his interview with Reuters, at least one child predator has been brought to trial as a direct result of the use of this software.

Facebook Quotes…

  • “We’ve never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it’s really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate.”

And, according to a page on its site, Facebook works with law enforcement “where appropriate and to the extent required by law to ensure the safety of the people who use Facebook.”

  • “We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law. This may include respecting requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law under the local laws in that jurisdiction, apply to users from that jurisdiction, and are consistent with generally accepted international standards.
  •  “We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities.”

The above statement by Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan and the fact that in April Facebook “complied” with a Boston Police Department subpoena by supplying them with printouts of wall posts, photos and login/IP data of a murder suspect would seem to suggest that the monitoring policy and sharing of information is worthwhile, however it will take more than a couple of arrests and convictions to silence the privacy advocates and human rights campaigners.

Monitoring users chats and the sharing of information, a public service or an invasion of privacy?

Let us know what you think……..

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