Facebook cracks down on devs using data for 'surveillance', sort of

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Facebook has updated its policies to explicitly prohibit the use of company data for surveillance purposes, under pressure from civil liberties advocates.

Facebook has announced a policy update that more clearly forbids developers from using the social network as a way to get data for surveillance tools. 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.

Back in October ACLU, for example, revealed that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had been passing on users personals to Geofeedia, a shady outfit that provides law enforcement with details on potential activists, or more precisely, according to ACLU, "activists of colour".

Facebook worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice on these updates.

The company says that it has made this change to ensure that its policy regarding this matter is explicit.

The ACLU praised the policy reform and said the "written policies must be backed up by rigorous oversight and swift action for violations". Twitter has since blocked at least three third-party social media surveillance tools, including Snaptrends and Media Sonar.

"When technology companies allow their platforms and devices to be used to conduct mass surveillance of activists and other targeted communities, it chills democratic dissent and gives authoritarianism a license to thrive", Center for Media Justice Executive Director Malkia Cyril said in a statement lauding Facebook's announcement.

The changes include language "to more clearly explain that developers can not 'use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance, '" the company said in a blog post. "We need to see real consistent and clear enforcement ..." Last week, law enforcement in Washington state obtained a warrant to search a Facebook community page associated with the high-profile protest against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Since the results of the ACLU's investigation went public, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have cut off Geofeedia's access to their users' data.

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