There is no secret that online chat is monitored on websites such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo and MSN. However the software behind the monitoring is getting highly advanced. By just using technology and analytical programming companies are able to monitor online chat without the intervention of company employees.

According to a recent report, all Facebook chat transcripts were running through advanced software screening looking for criminal activity, abuse, fraud and other inappropriate uses. It would look for words, phrases and a signal to flag the account. Once the account was flagged it would then be viewed by a security team for consideration or sent to law enforcement for further action.

So how does Facebook Chat screening work?

The software behind the chat monitoring is highly technical and advanced. The algorithm behind the software will never be known as Facebook would guard this to protect the information. However some of the signals reported online have been monitoring accounts where the age group differs, no known connection between the users, vulgar language and threats, contacting multiple users for contact information, bullying, sending inappropriate pictures etc. The software is extremely smart, it can remember previous phrases and writing styles of users to record and flag accounts. And it’s not just chat, but wall postings, fan pages and community groups.

What about privacy concerns?

Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan had this to say “We’ve never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it’s really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate”. It’s important to remember this is all done with software and screening. No employee looks at your chat scripts or wall posts unless you do something wrong. Even so some users may find this disheartening when software is analysing your every word, comments made and chats online. This is the price we pay to stay online in the digital era. To me having a low false rate also means plenty of incidents go unmonitored and unreported. What is the threshold of accounts getting flagged to actual accounts getting reported to police? This we will probably never know and as new technology emerges, the rates with reporting incidents will increase over time.

Is the intelligent software working?

Reported on Reuters, the software worked on March 9th to catch a man in his thirties chatting to a school girl. Police arrested the man and charged him with soliciting a minor. There are other examples online where the software seems to work and stop incidents before they ever happen. This is always a good thing to protect children and remove these kinds of users from the community.

In conclusion if you’re using the top social media sites then be prepared to be monitored. Watch what you say online in chats, wall posts, newsgroups and boards. You’re no longer anonymous. You haven’t been anonymous in a long time. Software is tracking your habits, phrases and conversations online. Chances are you’re being watched and if you abuse the system, threaten users or violate their terms and conditions, you’re going to get a knock on the door from the police, FBI or another law enforcement agency with an explanation notice.