Facebook Tells Developers To Quit It With The “Surveillance” Already
Your phone knows where you are, because it’s there with you. And when you use social media to post photos and talk with friends about an event you’re at, that’s data that can be scraped and used… including by cops who want to figure out what you’re up to. But not so fast, Facebook now says: If you want to build an app for surveillance, you’re going to have to do it without their data.
There have been instances of law enforcement using Facebook data to cast a wide net — not just look for information on specific suspects in specific investigations — before.
The ACLU published a report last October detailing how law enforcement agencies used a company called Geofeedia to help target protesters.
Geofeedia used Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter APIs — the things that developers can plug into, in order to use data from a platform — to create real-time maps of protest activity. Those maps were then used to identify, and sometimes arrest, protesters.
When the ACLU contacted the companies with its findings, all three social networks cut off Geofeedia’s access to their platforms. At the time, the Twitter terms of service for developers banned using user data specifically for surveillance; Facebook’s, meanwhile, had rules against putting user data into a search engine or directory without permission.
Facebook has now explicitly decided to make “surveillance” against the rules, though. Its updated developer policy now says that developers agree to “Protect the information you receive from us against unauthorized access, use, or disclosure,” adding, “For example, don’t use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”