(UnitedVoice.com) – Companies and public agencies have been known to purchase Facebook advertising. As one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, it’s an easy way to reach targeted audiences. But a recent report reveals a shocking allegation against the UK’s Metropolitan police and its online activity.
The Guardian reported a tracking tool known as Meta Pixel was embedded into the police agency’s website. When a visitor to the site clicked on “securely and confidentially report rape or sexual assault” to the Met online, Facebook would receive some of the data. That included the time the page was viewed, accessing victims’ services, and the nature of the sexual assault being reported. It also collected information on stalking, assaults, and fraud. The people who clicked on the site had no idea it wasn’t private.
When the police department learned about the report’s findings, it removed the tracking tool from its website. It claimed that no personal information was shared with Facebook, such as their message to the police. Instead, the department claimed it was all an accident.
The data shared with Facebook was used to create targeted ads. The department alleged those ads were only going out to people who had indicated they were interested in working for the agency.
An online privacy researcher, Mark Richards, said the department using the tool was like the police “asking someone to report a crime while a stranger is in the room.”
The Metropolitan Police weren’t the only department across the UK to install the Meta Pixel tracking tool. The Suffolk Constabulary, Norfolk Constabulary, and Police Scotland also had it on their websites. It also transmitted information about who accessed their sensitive portals, including hate crimes, domestic violence, rape, and others. Like the Met, those departments claimed they were using the tool for recruitment.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s data privacy watchdog, is looking into the report. It released a statement calling the findings concerning.
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