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Facebook Scans Chats and Posts For Criminal Activity 483

Posted by Soulskill
from the gonna-find-out-who's-naughty-and-nice dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Facebook has added sleuthing to its array of data-mining capabilities, scanning your posts and chats for criminal activity. If the social-networking giant detects suspicious behavior, it flags the content and determines if further steps, such as informing the police, are required. Reuters provides an example of how the software was used in March: 'A man in his early 30s was chatting about sex with a 13-year-old South Florida girl and planned to meet her after middle-school classes the next day. Facebook's extensive but little-discussed technology for scanning postings and chats for criminal activity automatically flagged the conversation for employees, who read it and quickly called police. Officers took control of the teenager's computer and arrested the man the next day.'"
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Facebook Scans Chats and Posts For Criminal Activity

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @07:55AM (#40637767)

    Why is it so weird that they're doing this? If you went into a bar and talked to folks about having sex with the underage, and someone overheard you, there's a chance that you'd get your ass handed to you, as well as have the cops called to take you away. What's different about facebook doing it? And who the hell relinquishes such personal, and incriminating information on a public server? I know it's not a public server, but it works just like a public bar that's privately owned.

    • Most peoples' facebook is locked down to not be publicly viewable, nor is there an expectation that a private chat between two people is "public". That's the same type of logic that made wiretapping of anybody by anybody legal - You're broadcasting your conversation over telephone lines that are public - which is why Congress had to specifically make it illegal.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:05AM (#40637869)

        it isn't the same logic at all. Facebook isn't even a common carrier.

        In this case it isn't the government eavesdropping on your conversation, it is the company that owns the means of communication looking at their own stuff and voluntarily reporting it to the government. That is a significant distinction. In this scenario you'd be free to create your own Facebook and have conversations about illegal activities and no one would find out. If it were as you claim, the government would be monitoring the service you run as well.

        • by DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:10AM (#40637901)

          'company that owns the means of communication'

          So Google has the right to monitor your chats and emails?

          'the government would be monitoring the service you run as well'

          Without a warrant?

          • by srealm (157581) <prez AT goth DOT net> on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:14AM (#40637949) Homepage

            If it goes through their servers - yes, they do. However the government can't obtain any such information without a warrant unless Google voluntarily gives said information up. But they could have every chat and email you send through their servers displayed on a big screen in their lunch rooms if they wanted. Legally.

            • by CrzyP (830102) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:26AM (#40638089)
              Yeah. Google doesn't because its bad for business. For Facebook, there may be backlash from the regular (no pedophilic) community, but dumbed down because they say this is being used to catch pedophiles and criminals and not to just randomly read up on peoples conversations. Then again, most people on Facebook don't care about privacy and like to have their thoughts seen (the Wall).
            • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:33AM (#40638151) Journal
              [pedantic] There's still the issue of data protection. In the UK any kind of personally identifying information can only be accessed by employees with a need to - if I, as a Google employee (which I'm not), decided to start reading an ex-girlfriends emails then that would almost certainly be a breach of the law, unless of course I'd been asked to for some reason (troubleshooting Gmail or whatever). [/pedantic]
            • by sycodon (149926) on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:04AM (#40638485)

              So AT&T can listen to your phone conversations and read your text messages? It all goes through their "Servers" (infrastructure in this case).

              Saying FaceBook is a public place means that their Privacy settings are irrelevant. Or does Private not mean Private anymore?

              As much as men who molest 13 year girls should be castrated and hung, Facebook shouldn't be doing this unless they make clear in the Terms (and I'd say in big notifications when you sign up) that they will watch what you do and if anything looks suspicious, they'll report you.

              • by mapkinase (958129) on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:39AM (#40638853) Homepage Journal

                >So AT&T can listen to your phone conversations and read your text messages?

                That's why UK's Big Brother criminalizes encryption [falkvinge.net]:

                > the UK will send its citizens to jail for up to five years if they cannot produce the key to an encrypted data set.

              • by Hatta (162192) on Friday July 13, 2012 @10:57AM (#40639625) Journal

                As much as men who molest 13 year girls should be castrated and hung

                I think you meant 'hanged' but hey, maybe there are 13 year old girls who like it that way.

              • AT&T is considered a common carrier. It has to provide service to the general public without discrimination. That gives it protection from any crimes committed using the telephones. If they start monitoring conversations, then they might lose that common carrier status. There are also wiretapping laws that apply even to AT&T.

                Neither of those laws do not apply to Facebook. In time, we may expect internet service providers and social networking websites to become common carriers, and for communication

              • Interesting fact: the age of consent in the U.S. was originally 10 years old, following English common law. Many Americans alive today have great-grandmothers who were married at 12 years of age.

                http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/02/16_going_on_17.html [slate.com]

                http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2007/09/the_mindbooty_problem.html [slate.com]

              • The big problem that Facebook gets into when reporting sexual crimes is where to draw the line. It's a particular problem when you run into the irrational and hysterical laws and prosecutions on sex with young people.

                This sounds like the old stories of photo processors who were required to report all photos with "suspicion" of child sex abuse to prosecutors. As you recall, professional photographers were arrested for taking nude pictures of their own children. Parents were arrested for taking bathtub pictur

          • by Shavano (2541114) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:40AM (#40638237)
            Facebook can read your posts and chats. It's in their terms of service.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:16AM (#40638599)

            So Google has the right to monitor your chats and emails?

            Could you explain to us how they target advertising next to your email on gmail... if they DON'T monitor your chats and emails?

            In my inbox on gmail, I have two messages right now:

            The first, from a recruiter I worked with a few years back, asking if I (or anybody I know) are interested in a particular software engineering job that he's trying to find candidates for. The ads displayed next to the email are for:
            -- VMware Virtualization
            -- Norwich Civil Engineering Masters program
            -- Price Waterhouse Cooper consulting on "Succession Planning"
            So... a job description with "virtualization" as a requirement; a discussion of "required education" and - generally speaking - a JOB description (for which "succession planning" might be an issue) are the ads.

            The second email is a notification from twitter about a message a friend (who I game with occasionally) sent to me, containing a link to a Diablo 3 resource that he thought was really cool. The ads displayed next to that email are for:
            -- SproutSocial (the #1 Twitter Marketing Tool!)
            -- some other "Twitter management" tool
            -- And a list of links: "More on Diablo 2," "More on Diablo 3," and "More on Blizzard games."

            So yeah... not only does Google have the "right" to monitor my chats and emails, they are *actively doing it,* because that's how they target their advertising.

        • by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:15AM (#40637957)

          Why would Facebook spend money policing it's patrons and voluntarily reporting misdeeds? They are a "for profit" company, not a social service.

          • by DdJ (10790) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:22AM (#40638035) Homepage Journal

            Why would Facebook spend money policing it's patrons and voluntarily reporting misdeeds? They are a "for profit" company, not a social service.

            So that when legislators start asking questions about their violations of user privacy, they can point at examples like this to show how it's really "for the children" and in support of our fine laws and all that drek, maybe?

          • by qbast (1265706) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:26AM (#40638085)
            Because if they don't, things may become much more difficult for them. They really don't want local police or FBI pulling Megaupload on them and grabbing all their servers as evidence next time some crime is investigated.
            • by Applekid (993327) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:49AM (#40638339)

              Because if they don't, things may become much more difficult for them. They really don't want local police or FBI pulling Megaupload on them and grabbing all their servers as evidence next time some crime is investigated.

              Ok, so why stop at pedophilia / ephebophilia? Why not report people openly admitting to smoking marijuana, or underage persons talking about drinking, or people with active lifestyle pictures when they're claiming disability?

              Facebook is pulling the opposite direction and it's eventually going to cost them. If they get in the business of being pro-active in stopping crime, they're only going to wind up beholden to being pro-active in stopping all crime. They open themselves to liability, too.

              I can see it now, "I had a date and I looked at their Facebook profile but there was no indication they were a rapist, yet during discovery we found a message send 6 years ago about how this guy 'hates women'. Facebook knew this was a dangerous person and made no attempt to warn others."

              This is why any sensible online service explicitly disclaims responsibility for monitoring user communications.

              • by qbast (1265706)

                Because if they don't, things may become much more difficult for them. They really don't want local police or FBI pulling Megaupload on them and grabbing all their servers as evidence next time some crime is investigated.

                Ok, so why stop at pedophilia / ephebophilia? Why not report people openly admitting to smoking marijuana, or underage persons talking about drinking, or people with active lifestyle pictures when they're claiming disability?

                Pedophilia is special case - mention adult trying to have sex with a kid and any trace of reason goes out of the window. Reporting marijuana smokers could attract some bad press while nobody sane will dare to publicly speak up against monitoring for suspected pedophiles.

                Facebook is pulling the opposite direction and it's eventually going to cost them. If they get in the business of being pro-active in stopping crime, they're only going to wind up beholden to being pro-active in stopping all crime. They open themselves to liability, too.

                Whatever they do, it is going to cost them. I guess they analysed the situation and decided that becoming voluntary source for law enforcement is going to be less costly than alternatives.

                I can see it now, "I had a date and I looked at their Facebook profile but there was no indication they were a rapist, yet during discovery we found a message send 6 years ago about how this guy 'hates women'. Facebook knew this was a dangerous person and made no attempt to warn others."

                This is why any sensible online service explicitly disclaims responsibility for monitoring user communications.

                Look through Facebook ToS and I bet you find all usua

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ai4px (1244212)
                Next thing you know the US postal service will mandate that eveyone send their mail on postcards so it can be read. If you aren't doing anything wrong, why woudn't you mind anyone reading your messages? /sarcasm.
                • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgwNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 13, 2012 @11:41AM (#40640085) Journal

                  Next thing you know the US postal service will mandate that eveyone send their mail on postcards so it can be read. If you aren't doing anything wrong, why woudn't you mind anyone reading your messages? /sarcasm.

                  This was sarcasm, but it brings up a fundamental disastrous event back in the early days of the Internet. Some jackass at the FCC decided that, unlike the US Mail and the telephone, "the Internet" was not a communications system, and thus not subject to the same sort of privacy or access rights. And here we are now, with an Internet that is used more for communication than anything else.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          I fully agree, but there is a big but....

          They own the means of communication, they store it etc. However, they also offer the illusion of privacy. There is no notice that all communication is being monitored.

          A park if a public place...but if I am sitting with you in a park, and we glance around and see nobody nearby, and talk so that no normal person should hear our voices.... would you then say a person using a parabolic listening device to eavesdrop was doing nothing wrong to monitor us? Maybe if its his

      • It isn't really about whether or not Facebook is a public place. If you give Facebook your data, they can do whatever they want with it.
      • by srealm (157581) <prez AT goth DOT net> on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:12AM (#40637921) Homepage

        This just reminds me of the whole 'freedom of speech' logic. I run some online fourms, and the whole 'expectation of privacy' fails the exact same way as 'freedom of speech' does. And it comes down to the fact that I, and Facebook, are not the government.

        I, as a private citizen, am not required to allow freedom of speech on my privately run forums. And while in generally, I allow people to say what they wish, there are certain discussions my moderators are going to shut down immediately. And I can do this because freedom of speech only guarantees that the GOVERNMENT can't stop you from saying something, not another individual if you happen to be saying it on their servers.

        Similarly, the whole expectation of privacy is a government thing. There are indeed certain places that the government can't just gather whatever information it wants about you or spy on you without a court order (or at least can't use any information they gather in court), because you have an expectation of privacy. Private citizens however have no such restriction (except of course if they break another law to gather such information, like breaking into your house). Which means that if you voluntarily use THEIR servers to chat, you have NO expectation of privacy from them, as they are NOT a government either. This is completely besides the fact you agreed to their terms of service for the opportunity to use their servers in the first place. Which I'm sure contains some language about them being able to see and use any and all communications you put on their servers.

        Why do people not understand that many of the freedoms in this country, are freedoms that protect us from our government ONLY, not each other?

        • By your logic, my cell phone carrier should listen to every word of every spoken conversation I have, censor phone calls they disagree with, and report me to the police for anything criminal they find. After all, I could choose another carrier. They aren't the government.

          What you creeping authoritarians don't understand is that when technology changes, it shouldn't result in an erosion by freedom, and hiding behind "constitution only protects us from the government"is douchey.

          • by mmelson (441923) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:29AM (#40638117)

            Not "should", but "could"... except that doing so was explicitly made illegal, so that's not a fair analogy.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gstrickler (920733)

            No, that's an invalid extrapolation. In the case of the phone, it's you talking to one, or perhaps a few other people in real time. No one who isn't there by invitation of one of the parties can hear the conversation (without a wiretap). In his forum, many people are there who weren't invited by the party making the post, and people can read that post days, weeks, or years later, out of context because it's not the same type of real-time interactive communication as a phone call.

            The GP is correct. If it's m

          • "gays should be allowed to marry"

            "By your logic, necrophiliacs and bestiality practitioners should be allowed to marry"

            "marijuana should be legal"

            "By your logic, plutonium and ricin should be legal"

            "private servers are not subject to free speech rules meant to prohibit the government's intrusive actions because private servers aren't the government"

            "By your logic, cell phones should spy on you"

            it's called the slippery slope, and when you engage in it, you lose an argument. because depending upon the slipper

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rohan972 (880586)
            I grew up not far from what must have been one of the last manually operated telephone exchanges in Australia. My father told me stories of the operator, who was also the local gossip. Combined with what was probably too many crime and spy novels, I formed the opinion that communication methods controlled by others are not secure.

            Actual censorship would be noticeable pretty quickly but you may never know when you are being spied on. If I regarded it essential for the contents of my communication to remai
          • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday July 13, 2012 @10:37AM (#40639437) Journal

            The US claims to be the home of the free but it really isn't. But it has put the burden of censorship and control on private companies. Take sex, US TV has very little of it. Not because of any laws by the state, that would be censorship. But all the networks censor themselves instead... or... well... they don't want to find out what else, so they censor themselves far more then a state owned broadcaster like the BBC does. The BBC has nudity in family comedies. Unthinkable in the US. State censorship means supervision and control by the public. Private censorship means nobody ultimately is accountable.

            In soviet russia, you are not allowed to say anything or the KGB will kill you.

            In capitalist russia, you can say whatever you want, just nobody will print it or broadcast it. It is far more effective. Dead people become martyrs. Unpublished people are just nobodies.

            It is an old trick of capatilist. You are free to protest but if you do, no mortage and job for you. It ain't government repression if the government isn't doing it.

            Think about the app-store and iTunes and Amazon. They have censored material from you but it ain't "real" censorship because they ain't the state. Just an amazing coincedence that the powers that be and the private mega corps have the same ideas about what you should and should not be able to see, hear and think.

            Now go and consume like a good little free slave.

            • by ClintJCL (264898)
              I totally agree with the point of everything you've said, but I must point out the FCC fined fox for the superbowl nipslip. The state IS involved in SOME of it.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:14AM (#40637943)

        What more do you think Facebook has to do to make it obvious that it isn't 'most peoples' facebook', it is 'facebook's facebook'?

        They changed emails without asking.
        They change the page layout without asking.
        They record everything you do when at the site and use those data to display specific advertisements.
        They delete profiles without asking.
        They delete contact data from your phone without asking.
        They don't remove profile data, when asked.
        They change privacy settings without asking.
        They change their privacy policy without asking.

        At this point if you are a Facebook user and you believe your activities there aren't exposed to a 3rd party (Facebook itself), you are unfathomably thick headed. Just like with all of the other web based / cloud based storage: the people who own those servers own your stuff. No amount of legal or PR mumbo jumbo changes that. At the top of your comments page here: "The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them.", is an absolute demonstrable lie and anyone who believes they 'own' their comments in this page is delusional.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        What possible expectation of privacy do you have on Facebook? It's a data mining company, why would you hold any 'Private' conversation there?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your analogy isn't a valid. In a chat application, there is an expectation of privacy because the members of the chat are explicitly listed as parties to the chat - your chat partner and yourself. if someone else was a party to the chat, you'd expect to see their name listed in the chat box somewhere.

      In a bar, you don't expect the same level of privacy because you know there are people around you.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:11AM (#40637915)

      Why is it so weird that they're doing this? If you went into a bar and talked to folks about having sex with the underage, and someone overheard you, there's a chance that you'd get your ass handed to you, as well as have the cops called to take you away. What's different about facebook doing it? And who the hell relinquishes such personal, and incriminating information on a public server? I know it's not a public server, but it works just like a public bar that's privately owned.

      Remember this next time you chat to someone about how you got "so wasted" the other night at the bar and the cops show up an hour later to interrogate you on DUI suspicions.

      Remember this the next time your 16-year son is simply chatting to someone about smoking pot, and next thing you know you are being served with a search warrant on your home, ransacking your house.

      Not all cases of the police surveillance state are as blatantly obvious as a pedophile case. Use your head and understand exactly how this can (and likely will) be abused.

    • by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:18AM (#40638005)

      The main difference is the bar doesn't go out of it's way to implement technology to eavesdrop on its patrons. Seems like an awful business model for a bar (unless they are bounty hunters in disguise).

      A patron overhearing you in a bar is not the same thing as somebody who works for the bar actively listening for criminal activity. The random person at the bar hearing your criminal activity is the same thing as the "report photo/story" feature in Facebook, which seems to be ok with most of us, but Facebook admins (or bots) crawling through chats isn't.

  • And people wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stirling Newberry (848268) on Friday July 13, 2012 @07:57AM (#40637791) Homepage Journal
    why facebook has become unhip. While I've got no sympathy whatever for this particular individual, the reality is that the filters are completely opaque, and copyvio, sedition, and heresy are all crimes in various jurisdictions that facebook does business. Thus, according to the precedents already in play, if a person in Germany says something that offends the pope, he can be arrested and extradicted. The list can be extended almost indefinitely.
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:06AM (#40637877) Homepage Journal

      There were stories detailing the moderation system there recently, and a lot of this "moderation" is taking place in other countries. This has led to a lot of cultural confusion.

      I like cosplay girls (sue me) and this has been a constant problem with some of these girls. They post a bikini picture or something a bit too sexy, someone (usually attributed to the theoretical "jealous bitch"), and then a moderator somewhere throws it out saying it's pornographic.

      I can easily see the same thing happening for "criminal activity," though you would hope that wouldn't survive the escalation process. But how far does the outsourcing go???

    • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:12AM (#40637929) Homepage

      why facebook has become unhip

      Yeah, MySpace was never as cool after the pedos left.

  • ..on Facebook outsourcing moderation of content. Chat isn't such a stretch from this.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=worst+paid+job+on+facebook [slashdot.org]

  • Officers took control of the teenager's computer and arrested the man the next day.

    What does this mean? As a typical /. user I skimmed the links.....

  • 1984 in real time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:03AM (#40637839)

    "It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself--anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face...; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime..." -- George Orwell, "1984", chapter 5

  • by Eyeball97 (816684) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:23AM (#40638045)

    The only think that astonishes me about this story, is that anybody is surprised by it.

    The sweeping changes that took place post 9/11, and continue to take place, are delivering us inexorably into the stuff of fiction.

  • jokes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AxemRed (755470) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:33AM (#40638159)
    I'm concerned that Facebook could end up flagging something as illegal that is really an inside joke between friends. I make lots of jokes about illegal activities with friends. They're usually about violent crimes or hard drugs rather than sex crimes, but still... We know each other well enough to catch the sarcasm. But sarcasm doesn't always show through very well in text when being read by strangers.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:34AM (#40638167) Journal
    Wonder who is doing legal advising to Facebook.

    Now, every victim could potentially sue Facebook for not protecting them from predators. "We read news report about Facebook monitoring our chats and catching the criminals. It is all Facebook's fault I lied to my parents, played hookey with school and took a bus to Middle Ofnowhere from Gated Condos, Florida". And every false positive could end up with a suit against Facebook for slander, loss of reputation. And privacy advocates could sue Facebook for violation expectations of privacy. It looks like an all around lose-lose-lose proposition. Why are they doing it?

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:55AM (#40638399)
    Would they of their own volition narc on a pot sale? Or a direct action protest? Or someone that didn't pay a use tax on an out-of-state purchase? Wouldn't they have to, else be accused of picking and choosing which laws they help to enforce?

    .
  • by xrayspx (13127) on Friday July 13, 2012 @08:55AM (#40638401) Homepage
    MSN Messenger also censors their chat traffic, though I wouldn't pretend to know if it's to this startling degree. They do do active scanning and will silently drop and reformat messages containing keywords (and technology) they don't like. Here is an example of a URL which will be dropped if you send it through MSN Messenger:

    http://writingjunkie.net/images/stlouis10-18-08/obama-cool-again.jpg [writingjunkie.net]

    Yet another reason for ubiquitous crypto usage in IM. Use a libpurple-based client with OTR (Pidgin, Adium) and you can avoid much of this mess.
  • by swb (14022) on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:05AM (#40638493)

    What's needed is a HTML5 Facebook access app that would layer on top of a Facebook session and encrypt everything typed into any chat or update fields. Enrcypted content would be recognized and decrypted automatically. Otherwise, it would be a transparent layer over Facebook.

    You'd want some kind of key management and an easy option for posting without encryption.

    Encryption would make conversations much more private, especially the ones you (rightly, IMHO) assume should be private, like messages and chat. A nice side bonus would be ensuring that the communication you were having is the person you think it is.

    The fun bonus is that it would make Facebook batshit nuts to lose access to content, since they would not be able to encrypt it.

    • by J'raxis (248192) on Friday July 13, 2012 @10:05AM (#40639111) Homepage

      You just described Pidgin with OTR [cypherpunks.ca].

      There appears* to be a Pidgin plugin [google.com] for Facebook. So, Pidgin+OTR, plus convincing whomever you're chatting with to install and enable the same thing, is the solution. Of course, as with most technological problems, the third part of that sequence---the human part---is going to be the hardest problem to solve. The tech exists, if only people would use it.

      * I can't test any of this to see if it works because I don't have a Facebook account and never will.

  • by devnullkac (223246) on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:07AM (#40638511) Homepage

    I suspect this policy creates a liability problem for FaceBook. If I am the victim of a crime and discover that part of its planning was done via FaceBook but they failed to notice or report it, I could perhaps sue them for failing to stop it.

    • by PPH (736903)

      My phone company repeatedly allows the negotiations of market rigging and insider trading to go on. They fail to notice or report it. Where's their liability?

      For a tiny fraction of the ill-gotten profits as a reward, they would be sitting on piles of cash. They wouldn't even have to listen in on the relevant conversations. Simple link mining of call records (which courts have ruled are the telecoms property and may be sold) would reveal many of these negotiations. So lets get with it, Ma Bell.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:35AM (#40638807)

    While I'm all for catching pedophiles, this is bound to fail long term.

    - Criminals now know that Facebook is watching, so they won't communicate on it.

    - People talking about victimless "crimes", such as recreational drug usage, on Facebook, will now be suspect to having their lives destroyed because of the company trying to be a "goody two-shoes" and turning them in.

    So basically, the value of Facebook as a medium to let loose and express yourself has gone down, with no real long term benefit to catching actual criminals who hurt people.

    Please, let's leave criminal investigation to the appropriate authorities. Private companies should not be getting in on the act.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2012 @10:08AM (#40639155)

    Facebook mines data. As they mine data, they are looking to glean each and every bit of useful (read "sellable") data from a user's interactions. In the event that their slicing and dicing of data uncovers something like what we see here with the 30s vs. 13 scenario, I think they are morally accountable to report it to the authorities. It's no different than what everybody was upset at Penn State for with the Sandusky situation. If it ever came to light that Facebook had these details and knowingly chose to do nothing, then you'd have them smeared in the newspapers like Joe Paterno was.

    I think it;s commendable for Facebook to "use their powers for good" in this situation. People need to realize that the data Facebook gathers and mines really is theirs (thanks to the EULA), and they can be free to slice and dice it as they please. The concern here is not that Facebook oversteps it's bounds, but rather we need to be cognizant of what data we share, and knowing that it WILL be mined for profit.

    For those of you still thinking about buying stock in Facebook, think this through for a bit. They key to making a company profitable is to sell a "product" to a "consumer".

    Facebook is interesting in this regard, because some people are not very clear on what the "product" is. Most believe the "product" is this cool social network concept, and that the users of the network are the "consumers". They live in the delusion that Facebook can pay it's bills and such from the abundance of goodwill their users give them each time the log into the site.

    In reality, while to social network portion encourages sharing and provides links between people and data, the actual users of Facebook are the "product".
    Users can join and use Facebook for free, so no profit for the company is made there. Profit is made for the company by selling user information ("product") to advertisers ("consumers"). As stockholders demand more and more profits, Facebook must come up with newer and more innovative and intrusive ways to gather information from users to sell.

    Could this be considered a digital form of larceny? Larceny is defined as "the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods of another from his or her possession with intent to convert them to the taker's own use." Is Facebook not taking the details of every status, every "like", every chat, every picture & image you share online, and mining that data for themselves for a profit?

    Now I'm not saying that Facebook is doing anything illegal here. Their Terms of Use clearly define what we, as voluntary users, agree to. However, this does shed some light onto why some decisions from Facebook management don't seem to have the user's best interest in mind. I believe that as more and more people realize that the profitability of the company rests solely on pillaging data from their users, fewer and fewer people will find themselves willing to subject their digital details to such a flogging.

    I'm not advocating a boycott of Facebook or anything silly like that. While I enjoy the social aspects of Facebook, and don't mind sharing some of my details, I am also very cautious about what gets posted online.

    As an investment choice, Facebook seems a bit risky to me because the amount of data to be mined can be severely impacted by things such as new legislation, one big data loss, password snafu, the emergence of another premier social network, or any other event that causes users to begin to abandon Facebook. Loss of data to be mined would equate to the loss of a product, and the company will begin to crumble under it's own weight.

  • by mattr (78516) <mattr&telebody,com> on Friday July 13, 2012 @10:50AM (#40639557) Homepage Journal

    Of course you can't say anything bad because you would be condoning statutory rape.
    But Facebook is special. They should be under stricter rules than a common carrier even, because they log you in everywhere and know so much about you.
    How to catch a statutory rapist? Heavily scan all interactions between minors and adults (FB knows your age) and if any sex-related words hit the filter you have a potential crime. Have an employee read the log to be sure, or just outsource it. Maybe the church or young police trainees will do it for free.
    You could write a smart filter to catch drug dealing, or to catch attempted suicide, and so on.
    It should be trivial to write a smart filter for any given crime, such as drug dealing, suicide, or perhaps "not crime but against a corporation's interest". Call it facecrime.
    For example it is probably trivial for FB to know your employer. Than heavily scan all interactions between competitors' employees. If any suspicious words, perhaps work-related terms appear then there is potential crime again. The RIAA would love this too.
    This is such an endlessly useful and potentially lucrative area that I could see FB gaining an income stream from the kind of companies that currently are politicians' major income sources.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Friday July 13, 2012 @11:03AM (#40639689)
    For a minuete, take the example given out of the equation and look at the bigger picture. Sex crimes has long been used to stir emotions to get Americans into forgetting all notion of civil liberties. They immediately want us to think this was set up to protect children against pedophiles, but lets be frank, there is a bigger picture.

    If Syria, Egypt or libya did this, we'd be up in arms about it. This is nothing more than facebook monitoring users as proxy for the government. Its slightly unsettling. Its a violation of an expectation of privacy.

    What happens when that law broken is simple drug use, the so called "unlawful assembly", or other minor crimes used to tar and feather or public humiliate dissedents. Who gets to decide what gets fowarded to the authorities.

    Even better, what system is in place to prevent facebook employees using information for their own gain? what about personal gain? what about prying on secrets of competitors for sexual mates? What about revenge?

     
  • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Friday July 13, 2012 @11:13AM (#40639799)

    With all the news coverage that Facebook has gotten regarding privacy and the lack thereof, only the truly clueless and stupid could possibly think that there's some kind of expectation of privacy while using facebook in any capacity at all.

    Hell, even my mother is nervous about using facebook, and if she was any less technically literate than she is already, she wouldn't have a computer at all.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:42PM (#40641397)

    Everything you do and say on the internet is subject to monitoring, for right or wrong or good or ill by commercial, government, and possibly criminals (other than "commercial" and "government").

    Be smart about what you say and do.

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