If you’ve ever used Facebook’s Messenger chat app to share texts and links with your friends, Facebook pored through it.
Facebook is automatically scanning Facebook Messenger conversations for unacceptable content, the company has confirmed, monitoring both text and images shared. The revelation stemmed from an unexpected side detail from an interview with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
On Wednesday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11th regarding his company’s data privacy practices. On the same day, Facebook said it will propose new updates to its data policy and its terms of services to reflect more transparency about how the company collects and shares information on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
“It’s important to show people in black and white how our products work – it’s one of the ways people can make informed decisions about their privacy,” wrote Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer in a blog post. He also added that,
“These updates are about making things clearer. We’re not asking for new rights to collect, use or share your data on Facebook. We’re also not changing any of the privacy choices you’ve made in the past.”
Zuckerberg gave an example of how it works in a recent interview, where the system had spotted messages related to the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. At the time, the chief exec said, the system was able to step in and block the transmission of the messages through Facebook’s network.
“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,”
The company is working to make its privacy policies clearer, but still ends up with gaps between what it says users have agreed to, and what users think they actually agreed to. The Messenger scanning systems “are very similar to those that other internet companies use today,” the company said.
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