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Facebook is Scanning your Chats for Criminal Activity
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Is it okay that we are being monitored for our own good? Would our grandparents and great grandparents be comfortable living in cities like ours where there are literally thousands of hidden security cameras recording everything you do at all times? It gets more pervasive than that. Now Facebook is scanning your messages, looking for what may be criminal behavior. Consider the story from a Reuters interview with Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan, which opens with this story:

“A man in his early 30s was chatting about sex with a 13-year-old South Florida girl and planned to meet her after middle-school classes the next day. Facebook’s extensive but little-discussed technology for scanning postings and chats for criminal activity automatically flagged the conversation for employees, who read it and quickly called police. Officers took control of the teenager’s computer and arrested the man the next day.”

As the officer explained, Facebook looks for a few red flags such as if the two users only recently became friends, having no mutual friends but a large age difference. Certain key words that have been culled as typically used by sexual predators are also being looked for.


“We’ve never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it’s really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate,” said Sullivan. The company has already been criticized for selling key terms in user posts to advertisers.

Whether such security measures are limited only to sexual predators — which is usually just the front door to internet monitoring and privacy invasion — is not certain. Facebook has of course cooperated with a murder case, sending over 62 pages of photos, wall posts, messages, and contacts. This bit of monitoring itself was only recently exposed, and there is no indication as to what else they are looking at.

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