JAKARTA - Facebook has written a letter to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), asking them to stop creating fake profiles on the platform for surveillance purposes. The news comes amid a growing controversy over LAPD's contract with a tech company called Voyager Labs, which created software that reportedly allows law enforcement to analyze users' social media data.
In fact, Voyager claims that its software can even let police keep tabs on a suspect's social media 'friends', leading to severe privacy concerns among digital privacy advocates.
Facebook has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the past few weeks, starting with a shocking revelation by whistleblower Frances Haugen. The internal memo shared by Haugen has led to the opening of an investigation by the US Congress into whether the company intentionally allowed hate and misinformation to thrive on the platform for financial gain.
In a letter addressed to LAPD chief Michael Moore last week, Facebook asked the agency to refrain from creating fake accounts to monitor its users. The company also noted LAPD's contract with Voyager, saying that using third-party vendors to collect user data on the platform was against its policies.
Facebook did not dispute the legal merits of the LAPD's surveillance tactics but demanded that the agency "stop all activity on Facebook that involves using fake accounts, impersonating others, and collecting data for surveillance purposes."
Facebook's strong stance on the LAPD has taken many by surprise, including some surveillance experts. Speaking to the BBC, Robert Potter, an Australian security expert specializing in lawful surveillance, said it was difficult to understand the company's tough letter to the LAPD, given its previous lackluster response to a much more principled issue.
He not only cites the company's passive response to growing misinformation and fake news on the platform, but also accuses it of not doing enough to stop child trafficking, terrorism communications and Covid disinformation.
Facebook has also been blamed for knowingly ignoring the mental health of teens on Instagram, and for not doing enough to tackle the illegal trade in Amazon rainforest land on its platform.
The company has also recently been blamed for spreading plagiarized content but has remained largely untroubled by the issue. Facebook was also recently accused of collecting large amounts of data about teens through its internal ad-targeting technology, although it has publicly stated it is stopping all such data collection for the safety of the child.
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