Recently Facebook has been logging and scanning the conversations and updates that its users make to track down criminal activity. Reuters reported a case that took place on March 9th, where a 13-year-old South Florida girl was talking to a man over twice her age about sex. In their conversation they were planning to meet up after her school ended. Subsequently the conversation was flagged by the tool that scans the conversations and Facebook employees called the police. The predator was arrested the next day.
Here we can see the benefit from such a system, but is this kind of a system ethical? The majority of Facebook’s users are most certainly not connected to any kind of criminal activity, but what if the tool that scans and logs conversations falsely flags a conversation for a Facebook employee to read? Would this not be a breach of privacy?
The age old argument: If one does not partake in any illicit behavior, then the person has nothing to hide. The individual does not need to fear the gentle embrace of the big brother. The same kind of ideology remains very popular in totalitarian states, as well as states that don’t look too kindly at freedom of speech. Well, big brother Facebook is watching you, me, and everyone else you know. Better not crack a joke that would imply something unlawful otherwise the police will be happily receiving you at the door. This is an exaggeration.
Though far-fetched for now, it’s interesting to wait and see until we have the world of The Minority Report on our hands, instead of mutants preventing crimes we would have apps and other internet tools do the job. It certainly seems that Facebook is building towards that, as they have added the data of earlier criminal cases to the database. Now each user is being profiled with this data, the way every nurturing and loving big brother system does.
The question I wish to pose is whether one should allow this breach of privacy without making any form of protest or just trade their personal privacy for the chance of having a conversation with a friend?