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Facebook Screening Users for Potential ‘Pre-Crime’ Activity


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, August 19, 2015


  It was recently reported by Reuters, and other news gathering organizations that the widely popular social networking website, Facebook is now using a new, covert software program that monitors their users' profile, chat and pictures for potential criminal activity. The software, working on a secret algorithm, is designed to alert a Facebook employee who then decides whether to call authorities or not.

   Reuters news interviewed Facebook Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan who said the software will monitor individuals who have a ‘loose’ relationship on social media networks.  The Reuters story explains that if two users aren’t friends, only recently became friends, have no mutual friends, interact with each other very little, have a significant age difference, and/or are located far from each other, the software tool pays particular attention.

   “The scanning program looks for certain phrases found in previously obtained chat records from criminals, including sexual predators (because of the Reuters story, we know of at least one alleged child predator who is being brought before the courts as a direct result of Facebook’s chat scanning),” writes Kristan Harris for  “The relationship analysis and phrase material have to add up before a Facebook employee actually looks at communications and makes the final decision of whether to ping the authorities.”
“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,” Sullivan told Reuters.

   Modeled after the Orwellian model of “pre-crime” and “thought-crime” from the George Orwell book, 1984, where government trolls constantly culled information from ubiquitous telescreens in all private homes and public places in order to ascertain if someone was committing a crime, or even considering committing one in the future.   However, unlike the telescreens in 1984 which were forcefully imposed on society by government, today’s public are actively volunteering into using the technology—and even paying for it—that is being used by government to spy on them.

    Facebook is designed to be a proxy information clearinghouse for government because Constitutional mandates against secret warrantless searches, wiretapping and entrapping people into providing information that can be used to convict them only apply to the government - not private people or corporations. Once this information is gleaned by the private corporation, such as Facebook, they then voluntarily donate it to the government thereby keeping the government's hands clean of any unconstitutional wrongdoing.

   The software has been used by Facebook to help gather information on potential murder suspects as well. reports on one case where 62 pages of information, pictures, chat and posts where gathered and handed over to local authorities by Facebook in a recent subpoena request.

   “Facebook most likely wants to keep this software secret since most people do not think fondly of someone rummaging around their private messages and photos looking for criminal activities,” writes Harris.  “Also how far is this system willing to go and will they soon pursue minor crimes or even thought crime?”








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