Facebook scans chats and messages for suspicious things

Facebook scans conversations and posts of its users for ‘criminal activity’. If the social network observes ‘suspicious behaviour’, it considers which follow-up steps, including informing the police, are necessary.

The focus is mainly on conversations between people who have a ‘loose relationship’, for example if two people have just become friends or if they have no friends in common. Special software looks for certain expressions that indicate criminal activity. If criminal behavior is detected, steps may be taken, as can be read on Cnet.

The analysis of conversations takes place before any Facebook employee can view the conversations. “We’ve never wanted to create an environment where employees watch private conversations, so it’s important that we use technology that has only a small margin of error,” Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief of security, told Reuters.

Law enforcement officers in America are happy that Facebook is carrying out the scans. For example, on March 9, a sexually tinted conversation was overheard between a 30-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl, during which an attempt was made to make an appointment. Facebook forwarded the information to the police and the man was arrested the next day. “The speed with which Facebook gave us the information allowed us to respond quickly,” said Jeffrey Duncan of the Florida Police Department.