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Indian Contractors Examine, Categorize Facebook Content

Contractors in India have been examining and categorizing millions of photos, status updates and more from Facebook, opening up new concerns about how the social media giant handles its users’ data.

According to Reuters, a team of as many as 260 contractors at outsourcing firm Wipro are working to categorize the items according to five “dimensions,” which include the subject of the post, the occasion and the author’s intention. The Indian firm received a $4 million contract for the work.

Facebook confirmed many details of the project, which was launched last year, saying that its goal is to better understand the various types of user posts so the company can develop new features.

But legal experts warned that the program could cause new privacy issues for Facebook, especially concerning the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has strict rules about how companies gather and use personal data without consent.

“One of the key pieces of GDPR is purpose limitation,” said John Kennedy, a partner at law firm Wiggin and Dana. He added that if the reason for looking at the posts is to improve services, that needs to be stated clearly. In addition, using an outside vendor like Wipro for the work could also require consent, said Kennedy.

And U.S. Senator Mark Warner told Reuters that large social media platforms are “taking more and more data from users, for wider and more far-reaching uses, without any corresponding compensation to the user.” With that in mind, he is creating legislation that would require Facebook to “disclose the value of users’ data, and tell users exactly how their data is being monetized.”

Facebook countered by saying that its legal and privacy teams must sign off on all labeling efforts, and that the company recently introduced an auditing system “to ensure that privacy expectations are being followed and parameters in place are working as expected.”

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