BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Facebook changed their policy and now they no longer allow developers to manipulate data and use it for the surveillance of their users. They took this initiative after the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU) discovered that a developer helped law enforcers monitor users during protests.
ACLU discovered that Geofeedia was the developer that offered Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram data for the monitoring of the users’ activity during protests. When the investigation was made public, all social networks stopped their collaboration with the developer. Facebook insisted to clarify that they would no longer allow such behavior from their developers.
Rob Sherman, the deputy chief privacy officer, was the one who declared that Instagram and Facebook would change their policies to prevent developers from using data for surveillance. Then he continued:
“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.”
ACLU searched through archives and discovered that Geofeedia emails granted law enforcement officials access to user data from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. After more research, it was uncovered that Facebook and Instagram provided API access, and Twitter offered Geofeedia a tweet database.
However, this access to data for developers was meant for commercial use, and not for the surveillance of users and the potential to limit them from carrying out their rights. ACLU also revealed that Geofeedia had 500 clients among public safety and law enforcement officials. Besides the use during protest, the union discovered that the data was used against communities of color, in order to stop activists and prevent so-called threats.
ACLU initially blamed Facebook for pretending that they supported free speech and then limiting the rights of their users by allowing developers like Geofeedia to access their data. After the investigation was made public, Facebook took immediate measures and implemented the changes in their policy that now limited the developer access to user data.
Facebook stress the fact that they support the free speech of their users and want to help and not prevent them from making their voices heard.
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