Facebook scans links, attached photos on Messenger for malware and child sexual abuse. Facebook’s data-policy pages don’t describe this automated scanning, but the company has confirmed these practices to news sites.
“Most services do some form of this,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. He noted the key benefit of checking links for sites blacklisted for abusive behavior.
A mail service usually employing a Microsoft-maintained system called PhotoDNA, for matches against a database maintained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“It’s a clear example of how technology tools and artificial intelligence can work, as it were, behind the scenes to catch the most shocking content,” said Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute.
Facebook, Google and Microsoft do not, however, scan messages for ad-targeting purposes. Google did so for years in its free Gmail service, but stopped that last June.
Charles Stewart, an Oath spokesperson, said the company will also add a privacy dashboard that will let its users see and control how their data gets used across Oath’s various sites.
For maximum messaging privacy, you’ll have to use a service that encrypts your conversation from your screen to the recipient’s.
CDT’s Hall mobile app Signal “the top-of-the-line and most secure messaging service out there.” There is also Secret Conversations encryption option in Facebook Messenger and the Incognito Mode of Google’s Allo Messenger.
The Facebook owned WhatsApp is yet another option, although its end-to-end encryption only works in conversations where everybody uses that app.