Facebook scans pictures and texts that users send each other on its Messenger app, the firm’s boss Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed.
It came as the US giant admitted that an extra 37 million users may have had their privacy compromised in the data sharing row that has engulfed it.
Chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said the personal information of up to 87 million users may have been shared with the British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica – up from an earlier estimate of 50 million. Most of those affected were in the US, he added in a corporate blog post.
Mr Zuckerberg, who is to appear before senior politicians in the US next week to answer questions about his network’s use of personal data, said the contents of messages sent via Messenger were scanned to ensure they are in line with Facebook’s community standards
He cited an example when one user tried to refer to ethnic cleansing in Burma. ‘In that case, our systems detect what’s going on,’ the billionaire told the website Vox. ‘We stop those messages from going through.’
A spokesman for the company said the automated process enabled it to ‘rapidly stop abusive behaviour on our platform’.
But the latest revelations have fuelled concerns about snooping by the network after a whistleblower revealed how users’ personal information wrongly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Congressmen Greg Walden and Frank Pallone said the hearing of the oversight committee that Mr Zuckerberg will attend on Wednesday will focus on the social media giant’s ‘use and protection of user data’.
He has also been called to appear before two other congressional committees.