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Facebook Tracks the Location Data of Some Users Who It Views as Potential Threats

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Facebook wields unparalleled power when it comes to the amount of data it collects on its billions of users—this we know. But thanks to all that information it hoovers up across its various services, the company is also able to use said data to track individuals it deems as posing a threat to the company or its executives, CNBC reported Thursday.

CNBC spoke with several former employees of the social media giant who claim the company maintains a log of individuals for whom Facebook’s security team must “be on the lookout,” or a “BOLO” list. This group of individuals reportedly includes everyone from commenters who make threatening remarks on Facebook’s services to former employees.


In some instances, according to CNBC, Facebook tracks individuals who it believes present a danger using their IP address or by combing their data across its services to obtain their location, which the company said it may then provide to the authorities.

CNBC reported that Facebook’s BOLO list contains “hundreds” of names, and the circumstances under which an individual could be added to the list are reportedly pretty subjective. But one reason may include insulting the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg:

While some users end up on the list after repeated appearances on company property or long email threats, others might find themselves on the BOLO list for saying something as simple as “F— you, Mark,” “F— Facebook” or “I’m gonna go kick your a—,” according to a former employee who worked with the executive protection team. A different former employee who was on the company’s security team said there were no clearly communicated standards to determine what kinds of actions could land somebody on the list, and that decisions were often made on a case-by-case basis.

The Facebook spokesman disputed this, saying that people were only added after a “rigorous review to determine the validity of the threat.”


Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison told Gizmodo in a statement by email that the company’s “physical security team exists to keep Facebook employees safe.”

“They use industry-standard measures to assess and address credible threats of violence against our employees and our company, and refer these threats to law enforcement when necessary,” Harrison added. “We have strict processes designed to protect people’s privacy and adhere to all data privacy laws and Facebook’s terms of service. Any suggestion our onsite physical security team has overstepped is absolutely false.”

That location monitoring is being used for people Facebook believes are a potential problem is perhaps no surprise, and it’s able to do so with remarkable accuracy. We know in part because of the creepily specific ways in which users are advertised to but also because Facebook tells us so.

“We use the information we have to verify accounts and activity, combat harmful conduct, detect and prevent spam and other bad experiences, maintain the integrity of our Products, and promote safety and security on and off of Facebook Products,” the company states on its Data Policy page. “For example, we use data we have to investigate suspicious activity or violations of our terms or policies, or to detect when someone needs help.”


But if a condition for being added to the BOLO list includes telling Zuckerberg to fuck off, surely the list would be longer than mere “hundreds” of users?