In a recent interview, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook scans everything you send on Messenger, but that “it’s for your own good.”
Nothing you send on Facebook Messenger is really private, because it must abide by the company’s rules governing content. If it doesn’t, your message gets blocked, it’s that simple. And this should not surprise you. On Messenger, Facebook uses the same tools as on its social network.
All content shared on Facebook, or sent via Messenger, must abide by the same community standards. Part of this is in the hands of the users themselves – you can report anything that you find disturbing or that you think should not be on Facebook – but automated tools are also in place to scan all content forms, pictures, and text included, and stop abusive behavior on the platform. As a Facebook Messenger spokeswoman explains,
“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.”
Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein that he had once received a phone call after Facebook had detected people trying to send messages related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. The filters had worked, and the messages had been blocked.
One wonders how, with so much technology to protect its “community standards,” Facebook could be so innocently used as a propaganda platform by Russia’s Internet Research Agency…
Of course, these revelations come as Facebook is facing heavy criticism about the way it has handled users’ private data in the past. Zuckerberg also commented that the data from the scanned messages was never used for advertising nor shared with a third party. But in the current climate, will this be enough to keep users from leaving the platform?
Especially when another Facebook-owned instant messaging app, WhatsApp, offers end-to-end encryption for messages, stopping everyone, the company included, from being able to read what is being sent.
Facebook Messenger also offers encryption, but you will have to turn it on yourself.
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