Facebook Admits it Spies on Users' Messenger Conversations

By Tom Pritchard on at

The concept of privacy on Facebook has long since been laughable, but following the Cambridge Analytica scandal the illusion has been shattered for a lot of people. The latest revelation is confirmation that Facebook does indeed monitor users' Messenger conversations for content that doesn't play well with its terms of service.

This topic was first mentioned by Mark Zuckerberg himself during an interview with Vox, revealing that the company has systems to detect "what was going on" when people try and send sensationalist messages through Facebook and "stop those messages from going through". In this context he was talking about the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

So that’s the kind of thing where I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm. Now, in that case, our systems detect that that’s going on. We stop those messages from going through. But this is certainly something that we’re paying a lot of attention to.

Now the company has further explained the situation, telling Bloomberg that it analyses Messenger messages in the same way as public content, with the end goal being to prevent abuse. Messages can be flagged as violating community standards, after which moderators can either remove the offending message or block it entirely.

For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses. Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.

If it's any consolation, Facebook insists it doesn't use data mine Messenger to sell your info to advertisers, though this is likely to anger a lot of people who thought they were having private conversations. Hate to break it to those people, but unless your conversations are end-to-end encrypted there's a good chance someone, somewhere is snooping. Whether it's government agencies or the private company that runs the service.

For some this will be one more reason to ditch Facebook entirely, in favour of a more secure (read: encrypted) messaging service. But for most of us, this news shouldn't have been a surprise. Facebook never pretended Messenger was sealed off, and there was no reason to think it would be. [Vox | Bloomberg, via The Next Web]

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