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Facebook Is Spying on Your Messenger Chats

Dave Parrack 05-04-2018

To the surprise of some, Facebook has admitted spying on Messenger chats. While the social network maintains Messenger conversations are private, automated tools scan the contents, and if someone reports a message for violating community standards, human employees may review them.


Facebook has been in the news of late, and not for positive reasons. The company has found itself embroiled in a scandal Facebook Addresses the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Facebook has been embroiled in what has come to be known as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. After staying silent for a few days, Mark Zuckerberg has now addressed the issues raised. Read More which saw people’s personal data sold to a third party. And now, it turns out Facebook has been keeping an eye on your Messenger conversations too.

Mark Zuckerberg Drops a Clanger

In an interview with Vox, Zuckerberg was answering the charges that Facebook is being used to spread propaganda in Myanmar. Zuckerberg recalled being told the system “detected that people were trying to spread sensational messages through [Messenger]”. And Zuckerberg stated that, “In that case, our systems detect that that’s going on. We stop those messages from going through.”

Bloomberg then followed up on this off the cuff revelation, leading the social network to explain that Facebook scans Messenger chats to ensure all content abides by the same “community standards”. Chats can be monitored by automated systems or reviewed by actual humans.

“For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses. Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.”

Facebook Has a Duty of Care

The way Facebook describes it actually makes this all sound perfectly reasonable. While nobody wants a private company snooping on them, Facebook has a duty to prevent its platform being used for illegal purposes and investigate when someone complains about harassment, for example.


The problem is that people don’t trust Facebook any more. So while the social network maintains it doesn’t use Messenger data to target you with ads, in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal people will retain an element of doubt about Facebook’s motives.

Consider Alternatives to Messenger

I personally wouldn’t stop using Messenger because of this. However, if you do decide to dump Messenger there are alternatives, such as Telegram, which offers encrypted Secret Chats 8 Reasons Telegram Is the Only Messaging App You Need WhatsApp has ruled the roost for too long. Today, there are much better alternatives out there. Here's why the Telegram messaging app is the best one. Read More , and Signal, which puts the onus on privacy Signal Desktop Brings Secure Messaging to Your PC Signal, the messaging app which values privacy above all else, now has a standalone desktop app called Signal Desktop available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Read More .

Image Credit: Christoph Scholz/Flickr

Related topics: Facebook, Messenger, Online Privacy.

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  1. Ruth Zekowski
    April 7, 2018 at 2:44 am

    When are you going to update your Dropbox article? It's 8 years old and very out of date!

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    • Abimbola oyeleye
      April 9, 2018 at 2:51 am

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