What can be classed as a credible threat? You might think that such a classification would be better suited to a story about the NSA, FBI, or CIA than a story about Facebook, but you’d be surprised. According to a story by CNBC, Facebook security teams have been drawing up lists of people who they consider to be ‘credible threats’ to the company. So, what does it all mean?
Credible threats are those that carry too much weight to simply be ignored. If you’ve posted on Facebook that you want to blow up Facebook HQ, you likely won’t be considered a credible threat. If, however, you said you’re going to attack a particular Facebook location at a particular time, then there is a very good chance Facebook’s security teams will consider you a credible threat. Other examples include people who’ve been to shareholder meetings and issued verbal threats.
This move is a reasonable one, considering Facebook recently had to evacuate its headquarters due to a bomb scare and other tech companies, like YouTube, have seen their headquarters attacked by gunmen.
Facebook security teams can track users deemed as threats through location and IP data
The issue with Facebook doing the tracking (and this fits in with privacy concerns raised last week over the Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram merger) is that if it wants to, Facebook can track people extremely well. Facebook has access to a sea of data about every one of its users, including location and IP data, which means if it deems a user to be a credible threat, it is very easy for Facebook security teams to then track their every movement. Facebook can even track Android users who aren’t on Facebook.
According to the CNBC report, Facebook’s list of credible threats includes hundreds of names, including almost all people that have been fired by the social giant. The list is updated weekly, and whenever a new name is added to it, all Facebook security personnel are notified, receiving information like their name, photo, location details and why they’ve added to the list. This then makes them eligible for tracking and could lead to their details being passed to law enforcement.
If this all seems reasonable to you, you’re not wrong, but there is something else to consider. CNBC also reported that whereas some people were reasonably added to the list, others were added for smaller offenses like commenting things like, “’F— you, Mark,’ ‘F— Facebook’ or ‘I’m gonna go kick your a–,’” on posts by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Offensive trolling this might be, but it hardly warrants the massive violation of civil rights that being a part of Facebook’s “be on lookout” (BOLO) list represents. In theory, if you’ve ever said anything negative about Facebook, they could be tracking your location right now.
The key in all of this is regulation. Facebook is adamant that it is able to regulate itself and ensure it is always acting in a way that isn’t contrary to public interest. If, however, people are having their civil liberties infringed for saying something mean about Facebook’s big boss, it looks they might not be. With the UK government now aggressively calling for Facebook to be regulated and going as far as to call Facebook execs gangsters, it might not be long before matters like this one are taken out of Facebook’s hands.