Facebook in fresh privacy row, Canadian students call for probe

Facebook Applications, Web 2.0

facebook_logo.jpgSocial networking site, Facebook, is coming under more pressure to change its policies protecting users’ personal information after a Canadian privacy group has called for the organisation’s practises to be investigated.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic claims that the website violates 22 of Canada’s privacy laws. It is specifically concerned with how Facebook passes on personal information to advertisers and other companies without direct consent.

Students at the clinic lodged the official complaint after analysing the company’s policies and practises as part of a course last year. The 35 page action has been filed with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. “Given the advent of cyberstalking and cyberharassment, the sharing of this information without express consent is especially problematic,” the complaint states.

Facebook has offered a defence, stating that “We pride ourselves on the industry leading controls we offer users over their private information”. It also called into question the accuracy of the complaint: “We’ve reviewed the complaint and found it has serious factual errors, most notably its neglect of the fact that almost all Facebook data is willingly shared by users,” a statement read.

One of the key complaints is that even if you protect your personal details with the strongest privacy settings available, if your friends have lower privacy settings then it can still be accessed by third-party applications.

In fairness, Facebook has only been singled out because it is the biggest and most prominent of the social networking websites in Canada. I have no doubt that a deep investigation into any of the major social networking websites will reveal that your personal information isn’t exactly under strict lock and key.

Although the website has come under fire over its privacy settings before, it has made some changes to correct them. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that its business model depends on the revenue generated from advertising and from having people’s details on its system for it to share.

The lesson that really needs to be learned is that if you don’t want people to know your personal details, for God’s sake don’t post them on the internet, no matter what the privacy settings say.

Facebook (via Canada.com)

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