Facebook has disallowed use of data on its site for government surveillance. However, the social networking company will still cooperate with the police on a case-to-case basis to promote safety and community interests, as confirmed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Police departments have praised the value of social media as a tool in helping to solve crime. The tool is inexpensive, with the Brennan Center for Justice showing that departments all over the United States spent a mere $5 million on social media monitoring over several years.
Seeing the public posts of criminals can help police track their movements. For example, a law transgressor’s posted photo may show an identifiable doorway or landmark. Such a simple detail could lead to an eventual arrest.
The issue of using social media data such as a user’s status, however, cropped up when authorities tracked activists some years back. In 2015, a black protester named Freddie Gray died in Baltimore while in police custody. In 2014, an unarmed black protester, 18-year old Michael Brown, was shot by police.
Nicole Ozer is the technology and civil liberties director at the California office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which published the aforementioned documents on activists. She stated that while we use social networks to comment on social and political issues, companies have to “make sure nobody can use their platforms to target people of color and activists.”
Malkia Cyril, executive director and founder of the Center for Media Justice, echoed Ozer’s sentiment. She identified spying, censorship and harassment as the hazards from which communities of color must be protected.
In the past, third parties also marketed the data on social networks to law enforcement. This has been put to a stop by FB. Instagram and Twitter have done the same.
The Good with the Bad
Data on a social networking site can inarguably be used for good purposes. For example, Red Cross has made use of real-time information during disasters, as in Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught.
FB officials announced that they would decide which events would permit disclosure of users’ data. At the same time, they would do audits on third parties to determine any violation.
When Private Becomes Public
Security settings do not ensure privacy for Facebook users. In some instances, users forget to log out of an account. In others, the infiltration is attributed to hackers, who abound over the internet.
The more common targets of account hacking are celebrities like Taylor Swift, Angelina Jolie and Kate Middleton. Even Bill Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg have not been spared.