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Another Scandal! Facebook in the Spotlight for Scanning Private Messenger Conversations

Facebook just can’t win. Not at the moment anyway. Right after news broke out about the mining of users’ data by Cambridge Analytica, the news was awash everywhere. While numerous attempts have been made to assuage users of the popular social media site, it seems more is expected.

The company has been rocked by a lot of bad press recently. In the stock markets, they’ve stumbled a bit. While it is safe to say that the worst is currently behind them, recent revelations may put this to doubt.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak revealed that he had deactivated, not deleted, his Facebook account. This comes after recent revelations about misappropriation of users’ data

The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed some of Facebook’s policies in a podcast interview. He notified listeners that while he was working at his Mountain View firm, he received a call from one of his cronies. The news was that the system had stopped inflammatory messages being relayed. In this case, the system had scanned Messenger instant messages to stop inflammatory being spread about ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

While the move is inspired by the best of intentions at heart, it received mixed reactions online. Some deemed it fit for Facebook to take care of the overall wellbeing of people by filtering content. Again, there are those who found the news to be utterly disturbing.

Advertising

A report by Bloomberg was able to get Messenger on the record to reveal that they don’t harvest users’ data for the sole purpose of advertising

Instead, the company scans all links and images that are shared on their Facebook platform. Facebook Inc. moderators also read flagged chats to ensure that they are in compliance with the company’s rules. All posts that are in violation of their terms of operation are blocked or taken down.

 The teams that work on the moderation are either humans or automated systems. One of the Facebook Messenger revealed that their priority has always been to protect user data and privacy. In addition, he said that the community is protected from things like images of child exploitation and malware threats. Having the bots in place is thus crucial in preventing such information spreading to the masses. The Facebook messenger representative also stressed that no voice or video calls are interfered and listened to.

While all of Facebook’s actions seem done in the gist of good faith, many users have a reason to be concerned about their privacy. This is especially true with regards to the recent revelations that about 87 million users had their data mined by Cambridge Analytica. Thus, it is understandable that the current climate is a bit hostile.

In one Twitter post, Kevin Chastain sensationally claimed that Facebook actually reads users’ messages and uses them for advertising purposes. According to his assertion, he was texting his wife about dinner plans about a particular place. Then suddenly, right after he’d finished texting her, a Facebook ad showed up with an ad for that restaurant. Unbelievable right?

Systems Upgrade

Facebook suspended two other third-party app makers, AggregateIQ and Cubeyou, over users’ data harvesting.

In the light of this storm, Facebook has made attempts at ensuring that they secure all their operations. In doing so, they hope to prevent apps stealing users data. This follows recent happenings where an app masqueraded as a quiz that was able to tell user personalities.

The real purpose of the app, however, was to steal users’ data. Later on, the app was able to sell the data to Cambridge Analytica who participated in various electoral practices world over. They run a campaign for Trump in the 2016 U.S. election and Brexit in the U.K.

It’s safe to say that harvesting users’ data for use in campaigns is a low blow. To prevent such incidents, Facebook is making changes to the data settings, introducing new privacy shortcuts menu, adding tools to find, download and delete all Facebook data. Facebook acknowledged that the recent furor has forced them to speed up such updates that were already in the works.

In late March, Zuckerberg took out full-page adverts in a number of popular U.S. and British Newspapers to express his apology to users for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The ads promised to clamp down on just how much data access third-party apps can have.

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