“Facebook and other social platforms are watching users’ chats for criminal activity and notifying police if any suspicious behavior is detected, according to a report.
The screening process begins with scanning software that monitors chats for words or phrases that signal something might be amiss, such as an exchange of personal information or vulgar language.
The software pays more attention to chats between users who don’t already have a well-established connection on the site and whose profile data indicate something may be wrong, such as a wide age gap. The scanning program is also “smart” — it’s taught to keep an eye out for certain phrases found in the previously obtained chat records from criminals including sexual predators.
If the scanning software flags a suspicious chat exchange, it notifies Facebook security employees, who can then determine if police should be notified.
Keeping most of the scanned chats out of the eyes of Facebook employees may help Facebook deflect criticism from privacy advocates, but whether the scanned chats are deleted or stored permanently is yet unknown.
The new details about Facebook’s monitoring system came from an interview which the company’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan gave to Reuters. At least one alleged child predator has been brought to trial directly as a result of Facebook’s chat scanning, according to Reuters’ report.
When asked for a comment, Facebook only repeated the remarks given by Sullivan to Reuters: “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.”