Meta not sharing ‘publicly available’ Private Addresses

Meta pursues the Oversight Board’s suggestion to remove an exception that allowed users to share a person’s residential contact as long as it’s “publicly available,” the Facebook parent company announced in a revised post.

Meta’s reaction comes about a year after the company requested the Oversight Board to weigh in on its handling of private residential information. The Board published a response in February, calling on Meta to tighten its sharing policies of personal home addresses over anxieties about doxxing.

Although Instagram and Facebook already have rules to bar users from sharing someone’s home address, the Meta-owned outlets take no action against posts containing “publicly available addresses.” Meta’s standards have published any addresses in five or more news outlets or made public records public. Meta states 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 this information on Facebook and Instagram when it is still publicly available elsewhere,” Meta reports. “However, we recognize that implementing this recommendation can strengthen privacy protections on our platforms.”

Meta is adjusting its response to posts that include images of the outside of private homes. The company states it won’t take action if “the property depicted is the focus of a news story” unless it’s “shared in organizing demonstrations against the resident.” It will also enable users to share the exterior of publicly-owned residencies belonging to “high ranking officials,” like leaders of state or ambassadors. It will, contrarily, allow users to organize demonstrations at these locations. And while Meta said it will continue to let users post their addresses, it won’t follow the Board’s suggestion to permit other users to reshare them, mentioning that it’s “often impossible to know whether a resident has consented to allow another person to share their private address.

Meta didn’t fully dedicate itself to implementing tools that make it more comfortable for users to report a privacy violation. It’s evaluating the feasibility of the Board’s recommendation to simplify the process of ordering the removal of private information on Facebook and Instagram. The company says it’s trying to make the “Privacy Violation” reporting option more effortless to find. Instead of connecting through two menus and searching for the specific opportunity, Meta says it will test, making a choice more “prominent.”

The Board advised creating a “specific channel” to handle reports of doxxing as well, but Meta declined to take action. Instead, Meta responded by saying it’s “actively building new channels for users to get support” and that it already partners with over 850 organizations victims can contact to get help, like the Revenge Porn Helpline in the UK and the National Network to End Domestic Violence in the US.”

Meta’s scheduled policy changes, particularly its decision to close off the residential address anomaly, should be a layer of security for sufferers of doxxing. Doxxing is the act of exposing a person’s name, phone number, email address, or home address online to wage a harassment campaign against them. It also marks the first time Meta has reacted to the Oversight Board’s policy advisory statement.

The Oversight Board was ventured in 2020 and included diverse members who provide external guidance on Meta’s moderation judgments and policies across all its venues. Meta isn’t bound to any of the conclusions made by the Oversight Board but must answer to each of its suggestions as it did here.