Facebook says it is proceeding with its controversial ‘revenge porn’ prevention pilot, despite the slew of concerns from security experts and victim advocates.

The company announced the scheme in November last year, detailing the steps users had to take to stop intimate images being shared on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger without their consent.

The process – which required potential victims to send their private photos to Facebook to be scrutinised by “a handful of specifically trained members” of the company’s “Community Operations Safety Team” – drew much criticism regarding its security pitfalls and the considerable burden it places on users.

The Australian Office of the eSafety Commissioner, led by Julie Inman Grant who at the scheme’s launch said the agency was “proud to partner with Facebook”, today told Computerworld that the Office had “provided some feedback about the proposed pilot, which Facebook is working through before the pilot goes live”.

On Wednesday night Facebook’s global head of safety Antigone Davis posted that testing for pilot program was this week “starting in Australia” detailing a process unchanged from the initial announcement.

“This week, Facebook is testing a proactive reporting tool in partnership with an international working group of safety organisations, survivors, and victim advocates, including the Australian Office of the eSafety Commissioner,” Davis wrote.

An additional detail given by Davis about the “proactive reporting tool” potentially raises additional concern, with the company revealing it will store a user’s intimate images on its servers for up to a week.

Security experts criticised the scheme’s mechanics back in November – before the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users may have been improperly shared.

“My huge concern with this program is that it turns a vulnerable user’s fear of future possible harm into an actual tremendous privacy invasion – sending an intimate picture to a corporation that’s among the worst privacy abusers on the planet,” the University of Melbourne’s Vanessa Teague told Computerworld.

“At a time when the GDPR and other progressive laws are trying to improve users’ opportunity to take their data and leave a relationship with a corporation they no longer trust, this solution puts even more power into the hands of those who have already shown, at least in a political context, that they have irresponsibly abused it,” Teague, a senior lecturer at the university’s Department of Computing and Information Systems, added.

The eSafety Office said it understands “that Facebook plans to go live with the pilot later this year”.

– George Nott

Read more: Facebook ‘Revenge Porn’ Pilot Proceeds Despite Concerns

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