Facebook would spy on our private conversations within its Messenger service, to better communicate them to companies buying advertising space. This is the theory of an user Alexandre Lourié, shared many times on Twitter. According to him, Facebook would sell excerpts of conversations between members of the social network, as soon as keywords would be detected. A practice denied by Facebook, and rather improbable.
On Twitter, an user mentioned the use of private exchanges between users by Facebook for commercial purposes. The platform ensures that these accusations are untrue.
According to Alexandre Lourié, at the origin of the accusation, Facebook would propose to its customers to send them messages published before and after the use of a specific term.
Hier, j’ai appris que Facebook vendait l’accès et la lecture de mes conversations privées. Leurs clients peuvent lire mes messages Messenger contenant les mot-clés choisis par leurs clients, ainsi que les 3 qui précèdent et les 3 qui suivent. #thread— Alexandre Lourié (@louriealexandre) December 4, 2019
Still on Twitter, Facebook strongly denies the use of private conversations for advertising targeting purposes. Futhermore, the platform provided the link to his site about messenger privacy and safety and says : "We do not use the content of messages exchanged with other people for advertising targeting".
Facebook said to allow customers (advertisers) to access abstracts of private conversations based on keywords. Does anyone confirm this? https://t.co/oBwxDuVs6Z— Guillaume Champeau (@gchampeau) December 4, 2019
SUCH PRACTICES WOULD BE ILLEGAL
By not collecting the consent of users to read their private messages for advertising purposes, Facebook would risk so much. This practice could be challenged in court for non-compliance with the GDPR, the European regulation on the protection of personal data.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individual citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. The GDPR aims primarily to give control to individuals over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.
Superseding the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, the regulation contains provisions and requirements related to the processing of personal data of individuals (formally called data subjects in the GDPR) inside the EEA, and applies to any enterprise established in the EEA or regardless of its location and the data subjects' citizenship that is processing the personal information of data subjects inside the EEA.
Moreover, no material element is published by Alexandre Lourié, at the origin of the accusation. According to his CV, he is currently Director General of the Culture department of the SOS Group, an association fighting against social exclusion. He has also taught at the HEC business school and advised Manuel Valls, then Prime Minister, in 2015.
While Messenger private conversations are unlikely to be passed on to third parties for commercial purposes, Facebook recently admitted to listening to shared audio exchanges on its instant messenger to improve its speech recognition algorithms.
Another application of the Facebook platform, WhatsApp is more protective of personal data: all conversations are encrypted end-to-end, and can not be accessed by Facebook. Other services promise such confidentiality, like the Signal application.