Facebook Bans Surveillance of Their Users

Privacy concerns are nothing new, and revelations about how law enforcement agencies are using Facebook and Twitter to monitor innocent Americans has only heightened concerns. Now, Facebook is taking steps to combat privacy issues.

In a new policy, Facebook has officially banned powerful surveillance tools developed by third-party companies.

“Today we are adding language to our Facebook and Instagram platform policies to more clearly explain that developers cannot “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance,” the company explained in a statement. Our goal is to make our policy explicit. “Our goal is to make our policy explicit.”


Facebook has pointed out that they have shut down several ongoing surveillance operations. The policy change is just to make it clear that using the service to survey people is not okay.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Media Justice and Color of Change all took part in implementing this new Facebook privacy policy change. The groups were worried about police tracking people for their beliefs, instead of any risk that they might commit a crime. That said, developers may still misuse the data, and it will be up to Facebook to track them down and enforce their policy on them.

This news comes after the American Civil Liberties Union identified 23 legal opinions that contained new or significant interpretations of surveillance law, which affects the way the government uses malware, persuades companies to avoid encryption and the collection of financial records under the Patriot Act, all of which are a secret. The legal opinions are written by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Then last October, the ACLU and the Yale Law School Media Freedom Clinic filed a motion with the court requesting those legal opinions released.

“The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow,” said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”

It is important to point out that Facebook has lately come under fire over how companies operate a business on the social media network. As Facebook stated, they removed their “ethnic affinities,” a feature that allowed advertisers to advertise to people based on their race and ethnicity. But, this only came after lawmakers publicly called out the company. The Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement last November saying “This is in direct violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and it is our strong desire to see Facebook address this issue immediately,” reads the letter.