Social media giant Facebook Inc (FB.O) has stopped software developers on Monday from using peoples data to create surveillance tools, a process that the United States police departments have been using to fullest measures to track protesters.
Both Facebook, her Instagram subdivision and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) have been largely criticized by privacy advocates after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that US police were extracting users’ location data and other personal information to spy on protesters in Ferguson and Missouri.
The move came after ACLU published its report as Facebook immediately shutdown its data access provided Geofeedia, a Chicago-based data vendor whose job is to cooperate with organizations to “leverage social media,” although Facebook’s policy did not out-rightly banned such use of peoples data in the near future.
“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a post on the social network on Monday.
The change would help build “a community where people can feel safe making their voices heard,” Sherman said.
It will be recalled that that a provocative protest erupted in St. Louis region of Ferguson in 2014 after a police officer shot a black teenager Michael Brown.
The ACLU report based on government records noted that a Geofeedia employee flaunted the organizations “great success” in covering the protest in a 2015 email. Geofeedia is known to have worked with over 500 law enforcement agencies noted the ACLU report.
Meanwhile, the CEO in October, Phil Harris said the company was bent to maintain privacy and would work to improve on civil rights protections.
Nicole Ozer, a technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California has said other top social media networks including Twitter and Alphabet Inc’ YouTube (GOOGL.O) have taken or activated similar policies like that of Facebook.
Although Nicole appraised company efforts in to take action she noted that they should have banned such use long ago. “It shouldn’t take a public records request from the ACLU for these companies to know what their developers are doing,” she said.
The executive director of the Center for Media Justice noted that it was not clearly stated how the companies would implement their policies, according to Malkia Cyril, whose non-profit organization opposes social media exploitation for surveillance.