Why Your Facebook Chats are Being Monitored


Your private chats and messages on Facebook may not be as private as you think. According to a report from Reuters, Facebook employs a technology that scans posts and chats for criminal activity. If something is fishy, the content is flagged and then read by an employee who will access the conversation and call the police, if necessary.

This monitoring came to light a few years ago when a man is his thirties was chatting with a 13-year old female minor from South Florida. With Facebook’s help, the police were able to commandeer the teenage girl’s computer. According to Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Duncan of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the information provided by Facebook allowed for the arrest of the suspect.

Reuters reports that Facebook screens for inappropriate language and exchanges of personal information and also uses records of convicted pedophiles’ online chats to teach their software what to seek out. The system also analyzes patterns of behavior. As a filter, it seeks out users who exchange abusive language and contact information. However, it also goes a step further to examine “whether a user has asked for contact information from dozens of people or tried to develop multiple deeper and potentially sexual relationship, a process known as grooming.”

Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan notes that, “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,” he said. Additionally, he noted that Facebook doesn’t focus on pre-existing friendships.

While Facebook is taking some measure to ensure user privacy, and that even though thwarted sexual predators is a moral good, the invasion of personal information may cross the line into an invasion of privacy.

According to the Help Center’s Law Enforcement and Third-Party Matters on Facebook, the site states, “We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law…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.”

Do you think that Facebook is doing social good by monitoring user conversations? Or do you believe that such surveillance of private dialogues is a blatant invasion of privacy?

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Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.

  • Gene

    yes its a good thing…If people have nothing to hide, then it will not affect them. nothing will be released unless its known to be malitious content or dangerous. I cant understand peoples unwillingness to see things put right.

  • Todd

    But we do have something to hide…Our privacy.The danger is in you yourself being controlled.We shouldn’t have to worry about what we say to someone because someone spying on us will consider us a terrorist because of our opinion.This is the strength of your government and with the law that was passed you can now be treated as a terrorist without any right to be judged in court.That means taken from your home and they don’t have to tell anyone where or why they are taking you, just that you are a terrorist.

  • Sue

    For the most part I do think this is a good idea, specially if there are sexual predators praying on children. You should also be watching the children who get bullied!! How many kids have we heard about that have committed suicide because they have gotten bullied at school and on facebook??? We all know that kids underage are not supposed to be on here but, how many parents have set up accounts for their children? I see it happen all the time. On the other hand where does our privacy begin if every conversation is being checked??? Theres a fine line here.

  • Jackie Dellacasa

    I think this is a good thing if its for the sake of our children. I’m hoping that the information they’ll get will not be use in any bogus purposes.

  • disqus_ARUvs6MQpX

    i have nothing to hide but isnt it the same as a postman reading your mail before he hands it to you or the telephone company listening to your conversation

  • Tom Fogarty

    I don’t have a problem if they have probable cause like a search warrant to look through your house by a judges order but not at their discretion . I’m sure what you have here in some cases are perverts working for the govt looking through everyone’s Facebook contents. Oh, you think the govt doesn’t have it share of perverts?

  • Tom Fogarty

    I’m deleting my Facebook account today who needs this shit

  • Errands SPS

    age restriction should be place on all social media platform,once your are below 18yrs you should be restricted, from 18 yrs upward you are on your own

  • Meldie Ching

    “If something is fishy, the content is flagged and then read by an employee who will access the conversation and call the police, if necessary.” – That’s why I don’t use Facebook.

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  • Amanda Hart

    I arrived at this article BECAUSE I was just a victim of this invasive policy. My content was not illegal and was still deleted even AFTER apparently being reviewed by a facebook employee. This is bullshit.