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How Facebook is helping police in the fight against crime

Facebook might be a great tool for social media marketing and sharing original content, but did you know it is also being used to track down potential criminals?

A new article from Reuters, released June 12, has lifted the curtain on the highly advanced tracking software that is being used to flag suspicious chat logs and identify where police intervention may be required on the world's largest social media network.

Predictably, the news has drawn a mixed reaction from commentators – and for valid reason. Technology like this can potentially be a breach of privacy, and could even be exploited for criminal purposes if it falls into the wrong hands.

That is why Facebook has emphasised that it is taking every measure possible to ensure that it is intervening only when absolutely necessary for someone's safety or wellbeing. 

"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," Facebook's chief security officer Joe Sullivan told Reuters.

Many people use Facebook to chat freely and openly with friends and family, so the idea of some Facebook staff member reading your messages might seem daunting. However you probably don't need to get too paranoid about Mark Zuckerberg peeking in on your private conversations just yet.

A range of factors are taken into consideration when assessing whether a chat log is suspicious or not, including how long the two people have been connected, whether inappropriate language is being used and whether personal information is being shared.

And as this entire process is automated, nobody is actually reading the chat logs until it is determined to be absolutely necessary, meaning that a certain level of user privacy is maintained.

If a potentially unscrupulous conversation is detected, a trained Facebook staff member is then authorised to review the chat and determine whether the police need to be informed.

What all this means is that, hopefully, if you are not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to fear. At the same time, it might be nice to know that Facebook is doing its part to help protect users – it can be a dangerous world out there, after all. 

Posted by Zak Wash