July 11, 2018 / 3:28 PM / a month ago

Facebook removes 'treason' as tag to identify users' interests

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Facebook (FB.O) has removed “treason” as a keyword to identify its users’ interests for advertisers, it said on Wednesday, after Danish state broadcaster DR revealed its existence.

FILE PHOTO: A protester holds an European Union flag next to cardboard cutouts depicting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a demonstration ahead of a meeting between Zuckerberg and leaders of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File photo

In an article published on Wednesday, DR cited experts expressing concerns that the tag - that Facebook called an “interest category” - could be used by intelligence services in authoritarian regimes to identify people considered subversive.

FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is reflected on a woman's glasses in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration/File photo

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 2 billion users, creates categories such as “sports” or “music” based on people’s online interests, allowing companies to better target their advertising.

A spokesman for the company said the tag was removed last week.

“‘Treason’ was included as a category given its historical significance. Given it’s an illegal activity, we’ve removed it as an interest category,” a Facebook spokesman said in an email to Reuters.

Exports told DR the tag could have been used by Russian authorities to locate about 65,000 Facebook users whose online behavior had marked them as interested in “treason”.

The Facebook spokesman said: “When we identify misuse of our ad products, we take action. Depending on the violation, we may remove the ad, suspend the ad account or even report the advertiser to law enforcement.”

Separately on Wednesday, Britain’s information regulator said it would fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,000) for breaches of data protection law after millions of users’ data was improperly accessed by consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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