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Facebook will not let anyone use its data to spy on you

Published Mar 14th, 2017 7:45AM EDT
Facebook User Data Surveillance
Image: Gombert/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook, the world’s largest social network and one of the companies that collect plenty of personal data from its customers, is committed to preventing third-parties from using said data to spy on you. The company has often had to defend its privacy policies, as privacy groups challenged Facebook’s handling and use of said data. Over the years, Facebook has gotten a lot better at offering its customers means to protect their privacy while using the social network, and the company is now looking to prevent anyone from mining user data for surveillance purposes.

The news, reported by The Wall Street Journal, follows a new series of Wikileaks that detailed some of the CIA’s advanced cyber tools used to turn popular consumer gadgets into spying equipment. However, Facebook’s decision isn’t linked to the new revelations regarding the government’s sophisticated surveillance powers.

According to The Journal, Facebook is looking to prevent law enforcement agencies from using Facebook data obtained from third-parties for surveillance purposes. Facebook updated its data policy to stop any company from using “data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) investigation from last October is apparently what caused this particular data policy change. The ACLU in October published documents that showed how a startup called Geofeedia provided tools to law enforcement that allowed the police to track activists during protests in Baltimore and Ferguson in 2015 and 2014, and obtain real-time alerts.

The company banned Geofeedia after the ACLU investigation, as did Instagram and Twitter. Facebook said it cut off other developers from using Facebook data for surveillance purposes. The company credited ACLU and two other groups including Color of Change and The Center for Media Justice for helping formulate a response.

The groups, meanwhile, called Facebook’s response a “first step” to addressing the matter.

It’s unclear at this time what Facebook is doing to enforce the new policy, and how it’ll track misuse.

Last year, Facebook changed its advertising policy to prevent marketers buying housing, employment and credit-card ads to target groups by ethnicity.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.