Friday, July 17, 2009

Facebook Violates privacy laws in Canada - How will this influence Social Networking in Canada?

How will this influence Social Networking in Canada?

As Social networking expands people need to understand that they are putting themselves at risk when joining social networking groups.

How much information should your social networking club have about you?

How much control should you have as an individual?

Is “Big Brother” really watching?

Donald Robichaud
FloodLight - Build Your Business

OTTAWA - The writing is on the wall for Facebook, the popular social networking site: do more to protect the privacy of Canadian users or face the threat of court action.

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart posted that message for all to see Thursday in a report that warns the personal information of Facebook members may be at risk.

Facebook, with nearly 12 million Canadian users and some 250 million worldwide, allows people to keep in touch with friends and family by updating their pages with a stream of fresh messages and photos.

Stoddart said Facebook breaches federal privacy law by keeping users' personal information indefinitely - even after members close their accounts.

She also raised concerns about the sharing of users' files with the almost one million third-party developers scattered across the globe who create Facebook applications such as games and quizzes.

Stoddart applauded Facebook for making some changes, but urged the site to remedy outstanding privacy shortfalls, raising the possibility of legal proceedings if it doesn't comply.

In a statement, Facebook said it would "soon be introducing a number of new additional privacy features" that will address any remaining concerns the privacy watchdog might have.

Stoddart launched the probe in response to a complaint last year from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, based at the University of Ottawa's law faculty.

Facebook user Harley Finkelstein, one of the students who lodged the grievance, said Thursday that users share responsibility for guarding their privacy. But he said the site must also do its part, particularly since millions of members are less-than-savvy teenagers.

"I don't think Facebook is bad, I think it's a wonderful application," said Finkelstein, 25. "But I think there needs to be a little bit of constraint put on, and (we shouldn't) necessarily leave everything up to the user."

Stoddart acknowledged that the social networking phenomenon has highlighted the fact some people are quite comfortable showcasing their lives online.

"Canadians live more and more in a virtual world," Stoddart told a news conference. "It brings many advantages."

Her investigation found that although Facebook provides information about its privacy practices, it is often confusing or incomplete.

"It's clear that privacy issues are a key concern for Facebook, and yet we found some serious gaps," she said. "In some cases Facebook must make some changes to its site to bring it into compliance with Canadian privacy law."

For example, the "account settings" page describes how to deactivate accounts but not how to delete them, which actually removes personal data from Facebook's computer servers.

Stoddart wants Facebook to wipe the information in deactivated accounts after a reasonable length of time.

Facebook agreed to add information about account deletion to its privacy policy, but refused to come up with a policy on retention of old accounts.

Facebook lacks proper safeguards to prevent independent developers of games and other applications like horoscope services from seeing users' profile information, along with details about their online "friends," the investigation found.

The report recommends technological measures to ensure developers have access only to the user information actually required to run a specific application. It also says Facebook should prevent disclosure of personal information of any of the user's friends who are not themselves signing up for the application, unless they consent.

Facebook hasn't agreed to the recommendations on third-party access.

However, it agreed to more fully explain the advertising used to generate revenue and to inform members that their profile information, such as a person's favourite movie, is used to decide which ads to feature.

In general, Stoddart's report calls for more transparency to ensure the site's Canadian users have the knowledge they need to make meaningful decisions about how widely they share personal information.

The privacy commissioner will review Facebook's actions after 30 days to gauge progress. She can take the case to the Federal Court of Canada to have her recommendations enforced.

"It's discretionary. We're very hopeful that things can be solved," she said. "But we can go to Federal Courts on a variety of things."

Stoddart found four of 12 aspects of the complaint were well-founded. Four were well-founded but resolved after Facebook agreed to make changes. The final four issues were dismissed.
As posted by Yahoo News

1 comment:

  1. Interesting!

    In the past, offline media was one of the major mediums to promote one’s business and brand awareness. However, with the increasing popularity of the online media and its positive results, more people are turning to online marketing techniques to build a strong business presence across the globe. The Internet provides great opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses, but doing business online presents unique challenges and requires new skills. Per my experience search engine optimization would be the best practice to improve your online business.


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