digital privacy

Facebook tweaks policies to stop developers from using its data for surveillance tools

They will now have to disclose what they plan to do with the information they receive from the social media platform.

Facebook on Monday said it was updating its rules to stop developers from using data from its platform to create tools that can be used for surveillance, The Guardian reported. “Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that they had already taken action against several developers for creating and marketing surveillance tools. “We want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

Developers will now have to disclose what they plan to do with Facebook data, reported TechCrunch. The social media giant will also conduct audits in some cases to curb developers from misusing Facebook technology. This development marks a progress for civil rights activists who have long been fighting to stop law enforcement agencies from spying using online data.

The new policies make it mandatory for developers to protect the information they receive from Facebook against “unauthorised access, use or disclosure”. The American Civil Liberties Union, which had raised concerns regarding mass surveillance by the Donald Trump administration in the United States, praised the move.

“Now, more than ever, we expect companies to slam shut any surveillance side doors,” The Guardian quoted ACLU Civil Liberties Director Nicole Ozer as saying. Ozer said companies also need to make sure nobody uses their platforms to target people of colour.

Last year, ACLU had found that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had granted special access to analytics firm Geofeedia, which works with law enforcement agencies. The information helped the government monitor “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations, the organisation said. Previous inquiries by the union had also found that a police agency in California used the tools to keep tabs on South Asian, Muslim and Sikh protesters, reported The Guardian.

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