Facebook scans private chatting sessions and posts to catch users who violate its terms or foray into criminal activities.
The world’s largest social networking site immediately calls law enforcement agencies after it finds and flags users who use their accounts for potential criminal activities, reveals Jeffrey Duncan, special agent supervisor for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in an interview with Reuters.
“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,” reads Reuter’s article. “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.”
Duncan gives Facebook a pat on the back for initiating inquiries in the interview, saying, “The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible.”
The company’s security tool centers on conversations between different users who are not on each other’s Friends List or became friends just recently, with only a handful or without common friends.
Facebook will focus on members who are not of the same generations or have significant differences in age and live far away from each other, which allows the tool to arrive at better judgments of finding potential offenders.
“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,” says Joe Sullivan, chief security officer of Facebook, in the Reuters article.
This includes another concern for security among social network users. For Facebook, privacy is a sensible topic since it has received harsh criticisms over its loose and ineffective efforts to guard its members against violations of personal privacy.
“It shouldn’t surprise anybody that Facebook is trying to make its site a safer place by monitoring for illegal and suspicious behavior which might bring it into disrepute,” said Sophos’ senior security consultant Graham Cluley. “Obviously we have to hope that Facebook acts responsibly, and puts measures in place to prevent inappropriate monitoring – or risk a backlash from users.”
“There are companies out there that are doing a very good job, working within the confines of what they have available,” said Brooke Donahue, a supervisory special agent with an FBI team devoted to Internet predators and child pornography. “There are companies out there that are more concerned about profitability.”