Facebook Messenger scans photos and links sent by users on the messaging platform, according to a recent statement by the company itself.
Facebook released the statement for a report by Bloomberg, which states that messages on Facebook’s Messenger platform are analyzed for violation of Facebook’s conduct policies. If they are flagged by the automated system, they are then read by moderators. If the content is deemed in violation of Facebook policy, the moderator is then permitted to taken action.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has admitted to monitoring Messenger conversations. “In that case, our systems detect what’s going on,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with Vox. “We stop those messages from going through.”
Unlike WhatsApp, the popular messaging platform Facebook acquired in 2014 for approximately $19.4 billion, Facebook Messenger does not automatically provide end-to-end encryption. Users must activate “secret conversations” on the Messenger platform in order to take advantage of encryption. Through end-to-end encryption, only participants in a conversation are able to read the messages that are exchanged.
A Facebook Messenger spokeswoman said that the monitoring tools are in place to prevent abusive behavior from taking place on the platform.
“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,” she said. “Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.”
Facebook has faced heightened scrutiny over the last several weeks as a result of a data scandal. At the end of March, Facebook took out a full-page ad in several major newspapers to apologize for the data leakage.
“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it,” the ad read.