Social media giant Facebook is now scanning user conversations for indications of potential criminal activity and reporting these to the police. The website looks for criteria including contact between members with few mutual friends or who interact with each other only rarely and scans for certain keywords. Conversations containing these keywords are then flagged for a human reviewer who decides whether or not to contact the authorities.
“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,” Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan told Reuters.
The system has been set in place primarily to catch child predators, but it has also been used to gather information on possible murder suspects. In addition to privacy concerns, human rights advocates worry about the potential for abuse. Facebook may be acting as any concerned citizen would by reporting suspicious activity, but it is also the world’s largest gatekeeper of private conversations.
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