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Facebook, Instagram ban tools police use to spy on you

Police will now have to find new ways to keep an eye on your posts.


Andrew Couts

Layer 8

Posted on Mar 13, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 8:55 pm CDT

Facebook on Monday announced that it will no longer allow third-party tools to access Facebook or Instagram user data for the purposes of surveillance.

“Today we are adding language to our Facebook and Instagram platform policies to more clearly explain that developers cannot ‘use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance,’” the company wrote in a statement. “Our goal is to make our policy explicit.”

The Daily Dot exclusively reported in September that Denver police were using a social media tool created by a company called Geofeedia to monitor Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Less than a month later, following an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Twitter and Facebook both cut Geofeedia’s access to their platforms. Twitter has since blocked at least three third-party social media surveillance tools, including Snaptrends and Media Sonar.

Police departments across the U.S. have collectively spent more than $5.6 million on social media surveillance tools, which officers used to target activists and criminals alike, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Facebook says it worked with the ACLU, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice for “several months” to craft its policy on social media surveillance software.

“We will continue using our policies to support our community,” Facebook wrote, “and we hope that these efforts will help encourage other companies to take positive steps as well.”

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*First Published: Mar 13, 2017, 1:20 pm CDT