Facebook’s Privacy Manifesto: What Does It Mean For Digital Forensic Investigations?


Published in May 2019, this article examined the “manifesto” offered in March of that year in terms of the digital forensic artifacts, interoperability plans, mosaic of metadata, and what it all meant for investigative information sharing and collaboration.


Mark Zuckerberg’s new “privacy manifesto” for Facebook marks not just a pivot in terms of how the social network shapes modern-day communication. It also marks what The Verge’s Casey Newton called “the end of the News Feed era.” 

Zuckerberg’s opening statement draws a distinction between the “digital equivalent of a town square” which Facebook and Instagram have helped to build over the past 15 years, and the “digital equivalent of the living room” in which more users prefer to spend time together. Most child exploitation domain experts would be quick to point out, however, that child abuse is far more pervasive in living rooms and other private spaces than it is in town squares.

For example, the United Kingdom’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) cites studies from 2011 and 2014 showing, respectively, that more than 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew. That’s consistent with US-based research showing that only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child.

Online, of course, Facebook and its properties Instagram and WhatsApp are well known to law enforcement:

  • In late 2018, TechCrunch reported that WhatsApp’s encryption, as well as its lack of human moderation, made it easier for child abusers to use the app’s private groups to share child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
  • Business Insider reported in September 2018 that Instagram’s IGTV service had recommended video content containing CSAM. 
  • Engineering and Technology described Facebook’s efforts in late 2018 to delete more than eight million pieces of content that violated the site’s rules on child nudity and exploitation in the previous three months alone. 
  • In March 2019, Forbes reported NSPCC research showing that Instagram has become the leading platform for child grooming in the United Kingdom. 

This isn’t to say that non-Facebook-owned social media, including Tumblr, YouTube, and others, are immune to similar problems. However, Facebook’s new focus — including its recent announcement regarding its own cryptocurrency — highlights the ongoing tensions between safety and privacy, as well as between law enforcement and the private sector. How might Facebook’s planned shift from public to private sharing affect forensic investigations?

Read more at ForensicFocus.com

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