Fame has its price, as many high-profile personalities can attest to. In addition to dealing with both love and hatred, there’s also the matter of potential threats to their safety. That’s true for both a single person and a large company, especially one that’s both famous and infamous like Facebook. But while most other companies have to take a reactive stance, Facebook tries to be one step ahead of danger by putting its own users in a “Be On Lookout” or BOLO list of people whom it perceives as a potential threat to the safety of its employees and offices.
As if the fact that Facebook tracks its uses isn’t already controversial enough, knowing that it has a “Big Brother” list of perceived threats is probably going to send some users and privacy advocates over the edge. Some security experts will argue that Facebook is justified in ensuring the safety of its employees and properties as mandated by laws. The social network giant, however, is in a unique position of being able to use its own product to keep tabs on such people, which could be seen as an abuse of its power.
The real problem comes when you consider who is added to the BOLO list. Normally, you’d expect those who make veiled and explicit threats against Facebook would make the list, and they do. But CNBC’s report suggests that the barrier is set low and there are very few guidelines for its security team to follow. Even cursing Facebook or its executives could earn you a BOLO spot. Even Facebook’s own ranks aren’t safe. Former employees can be added at their colleague’s request upon leaving while those that were fired are reported to be automatically added to the list. Contractors who get “emotional” if their contracts aren’t extended also make the cut.
And then there’s the location tracking. That Facebook is able to do so is no secret but apparently, managers can also alert the security team if they strongly feel that their subordinates’ safety are in danger for one reason or another. This has ended in one instance where a manager found out that her interns were just playing hooky by not logging in after informing Facebook security about her concerns for their safety.
Although it doesn’t deny the existence of the BOLO list, Facebook refutes the implication that its process for listing and tracking potential threats are nearly whimsical. Naturally, it insists that it follows strict rules and processes, despite claims of former employees, including former security team members. Given the amount of credibility Facebook has left over its privacy practices, those statements might not have much weight to them.