The policy update is a step in the right direction to prevent private firms from abusing Facebook’s platform and making undue profit.
The policy update is a step in the right direction to prevent private firms from abusing Facebook’s platform and making undue profit.

Facebook and Instagram Monday announced that the social media platforms have updated their privacy policies to prohibit private firms from using data obtained from the platforms for surveillance.

The platform announced that over the past few months it has taken enforcement action against developers that have created and marketed surveillance tools in violation of existing Facebook policies, according to a March 13 Facebook post.

“Today we are adding language to our Facebook and Instagram platform policies to more clearly explain that developers cannot “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance,” the post said.

Facebook said the move was done with the help of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice, who worked with the social media giant to update the policy and have help bring public attention to this the importance of protecting consumer data, the post said.

The move was praised by the ACLU and the other organization for making “it crystal clear to all developers that Facebook and Instagram user data is off limits for surveillance,” according to a March 13 ACLU press release. The coalition is further pushing for other companies to establish similar policies to protect user data.

The policy update is a step in the right direction to prevent private firms from abusing Facebook's platform and making undue profit, Ilia Kolochenko , chief executive office at web security company High-Tech Bridge told SC Media.

“Unfortunately, a policy cannot reliably protect anyone, but at least a deterrence effect will take place,” Kolochenko said. “Potential perpetrators can be found liable for the policy violation, and may bear important monetary penalties.”

He went on to say that law enforcement agencies will most likely still be able to use the data as they fit, depending on the jurisdiction.

“Briefly speaking, if law enforcement agencies want the data and can get it themselves – nothing will stop them analyzing it and using for investigative purposes. If afterwards some evidence obtained via Facebook will be admitted at a particular trial – only the law and judges may decide,” Kolochenko said.  “They (un)fortunately don't need Facebook's opinion here.”