Some people were shocked to learn that Facebook has confessed to eavesdropping on Messenger conversations without their knowledge. If you report a message because you believe it violates Facebook’s community standards, then a human employee may investigate. Facebook claims Messenger chats are private, but automated systems analyse the contents.
Lately, Facebook has been making headlines—and not in a good way. The business has been dragged into a controversy involving the sale of customer data to a third party. Now we know that Facebook was also listening in on your Messenger chats.
Mark Zuckerberg Drops a Clanger
Vox asked Mark Zuckerberg about the allegations that Facebook is being used to disseminate misinformation in Myanmar. The algorithm had “detected that individuals were attempting to disseminate sensational statements via [Messenger],” as Zuckerberg remembered to me. According to Zuckerberg, “Our algorithms identify that this is happening.” We prevent the transmission of such communications.”
Bloomberg then followed up on this off the cuff revelation, leading the social network to explain that Facebook scans Messenger chats to ensure all content abides by the same “community standards”. Automated systems can monitor conversations or reviews by actual humans.
“For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses. Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.”
Facebook Has a Duty of Care
According to the way Facebook explains it, everything seems to be completely logical. While no one wants a private business spying on people, Facebook must take steps to prevent its platform from being exploited for unlawful reasons and to investigate complaints of abuse, for instance.
The issue is that people no longer have faith in Facebook as a result of this. As a result, although Facebook claims that Messenger data is not used to target you with advertisements, the Cambridge Analytica controversy will leave users with some scepticism about the social network’s motivations.
Consider Privacy-Focused Alternatives
Personally, I would not discontinue usage of Messenger as a result of this. If, on the other hand, privacy is your first concern, there are alternatives to Messenger, such as Telegram (the only chat software you’ll ever need) and Signal, which both take privacy very seriously.