Meta’s external advisory organization issued new recommendations Tuesday, urging the company to strengthen its policies that protect users from doxing.
Facebook sought policy advice last year, acknowledging that it struggled to balance access to public information with privacy concerns. The company now known as Meta’s current policy on sharing private identification details creates an exception for cases where that information becomes “publicly available”:
“We remove content that shares, offers or requests personally identifiable information or other private information that could cause physical or financial harm, including financial, residential and medical information, as well as private information obtained from illegal sources. We also recognize that private information may become publicly available through news coverage, lawsuits, press releases or other sources. When that happens, we may allow the information to be published.”
Citing how this type of damage can be “hard to remedy” – that is, once someone’s address is down, it’s impossible to put that cat back in the bag – the Oversight Board recommended Meta remove the exception. in its Privacy Violations Policy allowing for “publicly available home addresses” and identifying images. The new rules would be “more privacy-protective” according to the board, in light of the unique risks that the blunder of low caution poses.
“Once this information is shared, the harm that can result, such as doxing, is difficult to remedy,” the Supervisory Board wrote. “The harm resulting from doxing disproportionately affects groups such as women, children and LGBTQIA+ people and can include emotional distress, job loss and even physical harm or death.”
The council’s recommendations would make some common sense exceptions, such as when sharing a picture of a home that is the focus of a news story or when someone shares a photo of their own home. The group also advises Meta not to allow images of shared private addresses for protest organization purposes.
The Council also argues that Meta should allow residential footage to be shared if a protest is being organized in “official residences provided to high-ranking government officials” such as federal and local government leaders and ambassadors, otherwise an event planning demonstrate in a venue how the White House may conflict with the rules.