Facebook added an anti-surveillance clause to its platform policies for Facebook and Instagram, the Menlo Park-based social media giant announced on Monday. The changes were made to the policies for third-party developers that are creating services for Facebook and Instagram and specifically prohibit the use of personal data for any kind of surveillance purposes. Facebook noted that this change isn't its first attempt to fight surveillance, adding that it's been sanctioning developers of surveillance tools for months now. However, by changing its platform policies, the social media company is hoping to clearly define the type of activity that it's not going to tolerate.
The new policies explicitly state that third-party developers aren't allowed to use personal data from Facebook users to develop and market surveillance tools or indulge in any kind of similar activities. The changes apply to developers worldwide, a Facebook representative told TechRadar. However, this latest set of changes may have been prompted by a country-specific issue as industry watchers speculate that Facebook was forced to implement it following accusations that it was helping authorities in the United States track protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently publicly appealed to Facebook to change its policies and the company's announcement even mentions the ACLU in the context of a certain panel on social media surveillance.
Facebook's new platform policy changes designed to combat surveillance come shortly after WikiLeaks prompted a huge discussion on the matter by publishing thousands of controversial documents originating from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The contents of the documents alarmed a wide variety of privacy advocacy groups as they've revealed a plethora of hacking methods that the CIA uses to compromise communications channels and Internet of Things (IoT) systems. Some media outlets even concluded that the Facebook-owned WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging apps were also compromised by the CIA, though cyber security experts later refuted those claims. As the debate on mass surveillance and the role social media plays in it gets more heated, Facebook may introduce a number of other changes designed to protect its users from such practices, though some industry watchers remain skeptical regarding their efficiency.