Facebook Auditors Are Deeply Troubled

Facebook’s decisions over the last nine months have resulted in serious setbacks for civil rights and the prioritisation of free expression over all other values, such as equality and non-discrimination, is deeply troubling to the auditors. Further on privacy, groups are “concerned about the targeting of individuals for injurious purposes that can lead to digital redlining, discriminatory policing and immigration enforcement, retail discrimination, the targeting of advocates through doxxing and hate speech, identity theft, voter suppression, and a litany of other harms.”

Such is the conclusion of a two-year audit by Laura W. Murphy, a civil rights and civil liberties leader and Megan Cacace, a partner at the civil rights law firm Relman Colfax.

Facebook commissioned the report and according to the Guardian only some of the recommendations will be implemented.

While the company has committed to a number of changes proposed by the auditors, including hiring a civil rights leader, banning ads that are “divisive and include fearmongering statements”, and investing $100m (£80m) in black-owned small businesses, Sandberg had warned that not every recommendation would be implemented. Facebook did not give specific examples of which recommendations were to be passed by, writes the Guardian.

Encryption and Facial Recognition

Two points in the privacy chapter is interesting:

1. Facebook’s announcements regarding its planned adoption of end-to-end encryption for all of its messaging products have been praised by some privacy, human rights and civil liberties groups as an important step to protect the privacy, data security and freedom of expression rights for billions of users. However, the issue cuts both ways. Civil rights and anti-hate groups have also raised questions, given that encryption can prevent Facebook and law enforcement from proactively accessing or tracing harmful content such as hate speech, viral misinformation, efforts to engage in human trafficking or child exploitation.

2. Facebooks is a heavy user of facial recognition, but according to Facebook is disabled by default, and it maintains that it does not share facial recognition information with third parties, nor does it sell or provide its facial recognition technology to other entities.

The volume of data collected by technology companies on users and non-users on- and off-platforms and other topics like advertising, discriminatory policing and immigration enforcement, employment and lending discrimination, and algorithmic bias, are not part of the audit.

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