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​Mark Zuckerberg Admits Facebook Automatically Scans Users' Private Messenger Texts

Jess Hardiman

| Last updated 

​Mark Zuckerberg Admits Facebook Automatically Scans Users' Private Messenger Texts

Fresh off the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg has now also admitted that Facebook scans all of your private Messenger conversations.

Apparently, Facebook automatically scans the links and images that people are sending each other - something that's done to ensure that the content abides by the company's rules, Bloomberg reports. If it doesn't it then gets blocked or taken down.

Zuckerberg confirmed the revelation during a podcast interview with Vox's editor at large, Ezra Klein.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

He told a story about receiving a phone call from staff at his Mountain View firm, which related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Because Facebook had detected people trying to send sensational messages through the Messenger app, alarm bells started ringing.

"In that case, our systems detect what's going on," Zuckerberg said. "We stop those messages from going through."

However, Messenger has said that it does not use data from messages it has scanned for advertising purposes.


Instead, the company told Bloomberg that it merely uses the same tools to prevent abusive content in messages.


"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," a Facebook Messenger spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behaviour on our platform."


In another statement, Facebook Messenger added: "Keeping your messages private is the priority for us; we protect the community with automated systems that detect things like known images of child exploitation and malware. This is not done by humans."

The reaction to the news on social media has been mixed.

One person has claimed that his Messenger texts have been used to target advertising, tweeting: "So I was messaging my wife about dinner tonight mentioned a particular place on Facebook messenger and then opened up Facebook about to see an ad for that restaurant.

"Tell me they aren't in on every convo I have. Scary!"


Addressing the concerns - and criticisms - that its users have had, Facebook has recently said it will give its privacy tools a makeover.

The old settings menu (left) and new settings menu (right). Credit: Facebook
The old settings menu (left) and new settings menu (right). Credit: Facebook

In a post on the Facebook Newsroom, Erin Egan (Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer, Policy) and Ashlie Beringer (Vice President and Deputy General Counsel), announced that the company would be taking 'additional steps' to put users more in control of their privacy.

Going into more detail about the road ahead, Egan and Beringer explained that Facebook would address its responsibility to tell its users how it collects and uses its data in language that's 'detailed, but also east to understand'.


"in the coming weeks, we'll be proposing updates to Facebook's terms of service that include our commitments to people," they said.

"We'll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it."

If you want to find out more about Facebook's proposed makeover to its privacy tools, you can read all about it in the Newsroom article.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg

Jess Hardiman
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