Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced that users will soon no longer be able to share “publicly accessible” private addresses. This is in line with the advice of the Oversight Board. It took a year to formulate the recommendations.
Meta acknowledges that sharing this information has benefits for the public debate, but it can also be misused for doxing.
Oversight Board comes with recommendations
The social media networks Meta operates all have privacy policies that prohibit sharing private addresses. However, Facebook and Instagram policies make an exception for addresses that are publicly available. According to the company, this is the case if the address has been published in at least five media or has been made available in public documents.
This exception was controversial because it created a gap between freedom of expression on the one hand and security on the other. In a weblog, Meta wrote: “Access to residential addresses can be an important tool for journalism, citizen activism, and other social discussions. However, exposing this information without permission can also pose a risk to an individual’s security and invade their privacy.”
Meta turned to the Oversight Board for advice on the matter. In February of this year, the Council presented its recommendations. The tech company now says it will make changes in line with the Oversight Board’s recommendations.
Public address exception should be deleted
Meta says it will remove the exception for publicly accessible addresses on its platform. While this information will be available outside of its platforms, Meta expects the move to strengthen its own privacy protections. However, there will be certain instances where sharing images of the exterior of homes is allowed.
For example, it won’t take action if “the house featured is the centerpiece of a news story.” Here, users will not be able to share these images if they plan to organize a protest at the location.
Users are also allowed to share such photos of “public” buildings where high-ranking government employees live. After all, it is also allowed to protest at these types of houses.
Meta does not bet on new tools for reporting privacy violations
Meta does not adopt all of the Oversight Board’s recommendations. For example, the Council recommends designing a mechanism for users to quickly and easily report violations. Meta is considering this recommendation. The company is currently testing new reporting tools.
The announced change will be implemented by the end of the year, Meta promises. The company wants to add an extra layer of protection against doxing. In doxing, the perpetrators reveal someone’s personal or confidential information. This is done without permission and with the aim of intimidating or frightening him.
Residential addresses and similar data often end up in the wrong hands because a data breach has occurred somewhere. This type of personal information is often used for serious crimes, such as swatting.
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