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Facebook is monitoring your chats right now

July 13, 2012 • Online & Social

According to a report, social networking site Facebook and other websites are monitoring users’ online chats and then scanning them for criminal activities or conversations. Once any suspicious behavior is detected, the company will notify the police and the appropriate authorities.

Facebook's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan (image: CNet)

The report states that the website’s screening software monitor online chats for certain key words and phrases that could indicate criminal intent, or abusive language.

It also came to light that the scanning software will grant more attention to chats between two people who do not really have a well-established connection on Facebook, or focus more on chats between people who have a wide age gap.

“If the scanning software flags a suspicious chat exchange, it notifies Facebook security employees, who can then determine if police should be notified,” Mashable wrote.

Most of the chats are not seen by Facebook’s employees, but it is still unclear if the scanned chat records are deleted or stored permanently. “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,” Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan told Reuters.

On Facebook’s informational page on their website, they do state that they will work with law enforcement to curb criminal activity “where appropriate and to the extent required by law to ensure the safety of the people who use Facebook”.

On the same page, the company outlines that they have a responsibility to contact authorities if they suspect any strange behavior.

“We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law. This may include respecting requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law under the local laws in that jurisdiction, apply to users from that jurisdiction, and are consistent with generally accepted international standards.”

Facebook will also monitor and share communications between users, if it suspects acts of fraud. “We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities.”

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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