Thursday, July 16, 2009

Canadian Privacy Laws & Online Networking

A report form the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has found that facebook breaches Canadian privacy law. The report responds to 24 complaints, and while most were unfounded or resolved there are four cases that are of concern.

Here's a bit from the executive summary (bolding by me):

On the remaining subjects of third-party applications, account deactivation and deletion, accounts of deceased users, and non-users’ personal information, the Assistant Commissioner likewise found Facebook to be in contravention of the Act and concluded that the allegations were well-founded. In these four cases, there remain unresolved issues where Facebook has not yet agreed to adopt her recommendations. Most notably, regarding third-party applications, the Assistant Commissioner determined that Facebook did not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized access by application developers to users’ personal information, and furthermore was not doing enough to ensure that meaningful consent was obtained from individuals for the disclosure of their personal information to application developers.
It's something I rarely think about as I generally avoid apps, but it makes me wonder how many third-party applications are created just to harvest users' information.

CBC has a good quote from Jordan Plener, the UOttawa student who filed the complaint on behalf of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

"For a hangman application, for example, there is no use for the developer to know where the person lives or have their personal email address."
That sounds on the money to me - but really, should we have any expectation of privacy at all on facebook? Our Minister Van Loan doesn't think so.

What do you think? Is it time we give up on protecting our personal information online?

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