Published by LawTechie - July 13, 2012 - LawTechie

FacebookAccording to a report via Mashable, Facebook does more than passively scan user profile settings for targeted advertising, it also monitors chats between users for potential criminal activity:

Facebook and other social platforms are watching users’ chats for criminal activity and notifying police if any suspicious behavior is detected, according to a report.

The software pays more attention to chats between users who don’t already have a well-established connection on the site and whose profile data indicate something may be wrong, such as a wide age gap. The scanning program is also “smart” — it’s taught to keep an eye out for certain phrases found in the previously obtained chat records from criminals including sexual predators.

If this is true, Facebook may be facing some serious class action litigation soon. In fact, I was so surprised by these allegations and their potential legal exposure to Facebook, I immediately scoured Facebook’s privacy policy to see if they had hidden some sort of “out” for themselves with regard to what information they share about you. The only clause I found anywhere nearing this was:

We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people’s data in a way that it is no longer associated with you.

We can probably assume that the authorities are not advertising partners or customers, but since the policy makes no mention of the authorities, then the above is probably the closest Facebook gets to having a policy with regard to the information it shares about you. That said, I do not see a police report “removing” the name of the reported party.

The Facebook Help center does explain how Facebook shares certain information with the authorities:

We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities.

Of course I had to go looking for the Help center to find this information, so I cannot imagine that it would fall under the honest disclosure of a readily available privacy policy. We’ll see how this develops.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.


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