Facebook Oversight Board Considers Posting of Private Residential Addresses

Facebook announced that its Oversight Board has accepted its first policy advisory opinion referral from Facebook. The Board is asked to consider if posting private residential addresses on Facebook is acceptable.

It is important to know that Facebook itself states that the decision made by the Oversight Board is not binding. To me, that sounds like Facebook is giving itself an opportunity to either go along with – or completely ignore – what the Oversight Board determines.

…Access to residential addresses can be an important tool for journalism, civic activism, and other public discourse. However, exposing this information without consent can also create a risk to an individual’s safety and infringe on privacy…

Facebook is asking the Oversight Board for guidance on the following questions:

  • What information sources should render private information “publicly available?” (For instance, should we factor into our decision whether an image of a residence was already published by another publication?”)
  • What information sources should render private information “publicly available?”
  • Should sources be excluded when they are not easily accessible or trustworthy (such as data aggregator websites, the dark web, or public records that cannot be digitally accessed from a remote location?)
  • If some sources should be excluded, how should Facebook determine the type of sources that won’t be considered in making private information “publicly available?”
  • If an individual’s private information is simultaneously posted to multiple places, including Facebook, should Facebook continue to treat it as private information or treat it as publicly available?
  • Should Facebook remove personal information despite its public availability, for example, in news media, government records, or the dark web? That is, does the availability on Facebook of publicly available but personal information, which may include removing news articles that publish such information or individual posts of publicly available government records?

I think we all know that posting someone else’s personal residential information on the internet, without the person’s permission, is wrong. Facebook shouldn’t need to consult an Oversight Board to understand that.

2 thoughts on “Facebook Oversight Board Considers Posting of Private Residential Addresses

  1. That’s an interesting point, Andrew. I had not considered addresses shared in a community Facebook group regarding businesses run from homes. It sounds to me like that situation might be acceptable to the Oversight Board, because it doesn’t post the person’s address across all of Facebook.

    Private homes that are not home businesses, however, are different. There is an expectation of privacy there. I think most people would be concerned if a news article that spread across Facebook showed the person’s home address.

  2. I don’t think it’s quite as clear cut as we would like it to be. In many countries, people run businesses from home so the difference between Jane Doe, Lawnmower Repair, 10 Oak Road and Jane Doe,10 Oak Road can be slim.
    If someone asked, “Where can I get my lawnmower fixed?” in a community Facebook group, it would be entirely ok to say “Go and see Jane Doe – she’s at 10 Oak Road and fixed my Rover mower last week. Her workshop is round the side. Great job”.
    Should that reply have been removed?

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