Facebook May Be Reading Your Messages to See if You've Committed a Crime

Say What!? 11

I think most of us probably realize that there's really no such thing as complete online privacy. The photos we post, the information we share -- it's pretty much all up for grabs, despite increasingly complicated privacy settings and overall user paranoia.

Still, even though I've read story after story about websites that abuse user tracking policies and can be forced into turning over personal information, I was still a little surprised to hear that Facebook runs software that scans its users' posts and chat messages for "objectionable content." As in criminal activity, sometimes.

In other words, if you're talking about the wrong things on Facebook, you could get in big, BIG trouble. As in, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go directly to jail.

Back in March, Facebook's scanning software spotted a conversation that didn't look good: a man in his 30s was allegedly trying to set up a meeting with a 13-year-old Florida girl for sex. The activity was flagged for Facebook employees, who read it and immediately called the police.

The man was arrested the next day, and has since pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.

Facebook's sophisticated monitoring tools do a lot more than just filter out "bad" words -- they analyze patterns of behavior, including archives of real chats that preceded sex assaults. The company also says its system doesn't spend too much time probing what it believes are pre-existing relationships.

According to Facebook’s chief security officer, the social media giant works hard to ensure no innocent people are targeted:

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.

When you consider the case of some sleazy adult soliciting a 13-year-old girl, Facebook's eavesdropping doesn't seem intrusive -- if anything, it seems like a welcome technological advancement. Hey, who doesn't want to bust a sex predator, right? He lost his right to privacy when he broke the law!

Still, the truth is that Facebook is always listening. Our conversations are being scanned for any intention to commit sexual assault, and while we might be okay with that, who knows what other topics Facebook is searching for. Or will be, in the future.

Are you surprised to know that Facebook scans your conversations for criminal activity?


Image via thefoxling/Flickr

facebook, privacy

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wjbra... wjbrady2011

im a little surprised but not upset. i have nothing to hide and if it keeps creeps like that guy away from young girls im all for it

butte... butterflyfreak

Well, considering my husband works for the Department of Corrections, and is employed at the state pen AND I happen to know for a fact that his (and very likely mine) facebook is being monitored by the powers that be in the capitol, nope, not surprised at all.

Erin Jones Lauderbaugh

It would probably work better if there weren't articles like this helping sick internet pervs learn how not to get caught. Just sayin..

nonmember avatar Hulga

OMG Thanks for telling me! I need to stop planning my murders on Facebook. Looks like it's back to Myspace. All who's left on there are people who don't know it's 2012. No one will miss them.

small... smalltownmom07

Google Branding Raub. It's happening each and everyday. What our parents generation thought was rumors by pot smoking hippies with conspiracy theories is coming true. It's not just sexual predators. Locally, a mom was chatting and said her kids "bombed" their soccer game. She was flagged. That's it. Sure, its great to catch a predator. But spying on innocents? Predators will always have a way. The Brandon Raub case spoke to me. I am a proud, lesbian libertarian mom. I'm also a member of the Occupy Movement and an atheist. The government classifies me as a "threat". Is it going to take a MOM to get arrested for posting a Rise Against song and a gay pride pic for America to wake up to how deep the government has their hooks in us?

tuffy... tuffymama

Careful, smalltownmom. I'm sure Big Brother is watching here, too. Ugh.



(And Brandon Raub was finally released. YAY! Finally, a smart judge.)

Caera Caera

I think it's awesome. If some asshole is stupid enough to not only break the law, but POST about it on Facebook, he or she absolutely DESERVES to be arrested.

Deann... Deanna2872

I'm not surprised at all. And you know what? It is NOT an invasion of your privacy. You have NO legal RIGHT to access the internet, and certainly not facebook. You have a CHOICE to use a social media tool, if you want to. Its not a necessary part of everyday life. You don't need it to get an education, to access employment opportunities, or to freely move around.

And if you don't want facebook or anyone else to have access to your private conversations? Don't use facebook. Its as simple as that. Its not your property, you have no legal claim to it. Accept your personal responsibility for making the choice to use it, and for the things you say on it. Period.



Problem solved.

small... smalltownmom07

The "powers that be" took Brandon Raub's posts and committed him without cause. There's 20 similar cases in his state alone that are similar involving vets. It's just wrong, especially when the government is labelling the majority of returning service members with ODD.

And WHY was a 13 yr old allowed to talk to a 30 year old?! Where were her parents?

Jessica Orr

Is it just me? or are there an alarmingly high number of people who have never read/heard of George Orwells 1984?

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