Meta is following the Oversight Board’s recommendation to remove an exception that allowed users to share a person’s residential address as long as it is “publicly available”, Facebook’s parent company announced in an updated post ( via Engadget).
Meta’s response comes about a year after the company asked the Supervisory Board to rule on its handling of private residential information. The board issued a response in February, calling on Meta to tighten its policies around sharing private addresses due to concerns about doxxing.
Although Facebook and Instagram already have rules in place prohibiting users from sharing someone’s home address, the Meta-owned platforms take no action against posts containing “publicly available addresses”. By Meta standards, this means all addresses that have been published in five or more media or have been made available in public archives. Meta says it will end this exception “by the end of the year”.
“As the Board notes in this recommendation, removing the exception for ‘publicly available’ private residential information may limit the availability of such information on Facebook and Instagram when it is still publicly available elsewhere.” , writes Meta. “However, we recognize that implementing this recommendation can strengthen privacy protections on our platforms.”
Additionally, Meta is changing its response to posts containing photos of the exterior of private homes. The company says it will not act if “the property depicted is the subject of a story”, unless it is “shared in the context of organizing protests against the resident”. It will also allow users to share the exterior of public residences belonging to “senior officials”, such as heads of state or ambassadors, and conversely allow users to hold protests at these locations. And while Meta says it will continue to let users post their own addresses, it won’t follow the Council’s recommendation to let other users share them, citing that it’s “often impossible to know whether a resident has consented to allow another person to share their private address.
Additionally, Meta has not fully committed to implementing tools that make it easier for users to report a privacy breach. It assesses the feasibility of the Council’s recommendation to simplify the process for requesting removal of private information on Facebook and Instagram. The company says it’s testing a way to make the “Privacy Breach” reporting option easier to find. Instead of clicking through two menus and finding the specific option, Meta says it will try to make the option more “prominent”.
The board suggested creating a “specific channel” to handle doxxing reports as well, but Meta declined to take action. Meta responded by saying that it is “actively building new channels for users to get help” and already partners with over 850 organizations that victims can contact for help, such as the Revenge Porn Helpline in the UK and the National Network to End Domestic Violence in the US.
Policy changes planned by Meta, in particular its decision to close the residential address exception, should add an extra layer of protection for victims of doxxing. Doxxing is the act of revealing someone’s name, phone number, email address, or home address online for the purpose of carrying out a campaign of harassment against them. This is also the first time that Meta has responded to the Oversight Council’s Policy Advisory Opinion.
The Oversight Board was launched in 2020 and includes a diverse set of members who provide external advice on Meta moderation decisions and policies across all of its platforms. Meta is not bound by any of the decisions taken by the Supervisory Board, but must respond to each of its recommendations as it has done here.