Today, Facebook announced that it’s going to update its developer policy. In the revised policy, the company explicitly prohibits developers from using its data and Instagram data in surveillance tools. This update is in response to the pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the Center for Media Justice and Color of Change.
The American Civil Liberties Union revealed that developers utilized information from Facebook’s APIS to help them create a surveillance tool for law enforcement. The social networking site decided to ban access to its data.
Last year, the organization found out that some developers used data from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in the Geofeedia and sold the data to law enforcement.
In addition to Facebook, Twitter also banned social media monitoring companies Media Sonar and Snaptrends from accessing its data. Media Sonar tracked the hashtags #BlackLIvesMatter and #IAmMikeBrown to help them identify activists.
Facebook said that such surveillance is against its policies. However, it revamped its policy today to re-iterate that developers cannot use the data obtained from the company for the purpose of creating tools for surveillance.
“Our goal is to make our policy explicit. 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; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.” – Facebook
In November last year, Twitter made a similar statement.
“We prohibit developers using the Public APIs and Gnip data products from allowing law enforcement — or any other entity — to use Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period. The fact that our Public APIs and Gnip data products provide information that people choose to share publicly does not change our policies in this area. And if developers violate our policies, we will take appropriate action, which can include suspension and termination of access to Twitter’s Public APIs and data products.” – Twitter
Facebook has already severed its ties with a few developers known to make surveillance tools. The company worked with other developers that comply with its policy.
The campaign director of Color of Change stated that social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are powerful tools for all black people. They use it to increase awareness of the injustices that the community faces.
The organization acknowledged the action of the social networking sites for this step. But it’s also encouraging other companies to value diversity and justice by standing up and limit invasive surveillance in social media. Reports showed that the law enforcement is using social media to target black and brown people who are living in the low-income communities.
But, even though Facebook changed its rules against surveillance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that developers will comply. The company uses automated and manual detection. It also listens to reports from users and advocacy organizations on products that breach its policy.
The three groups mentioned encouraging Facebook to enforce its updated policy proactively. But the company argued that it’s already doing it. They recommend the use of human and technical auditing tools to identify violators of its policies and take swift actions against those who infringe the policy.