The Precedent Blog reports that four University of Ottawa law students have filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada over alleged poor privacy practices by social networking site Facebook. The students are working with The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa. On May 30th CIPPIC filed a 35-page complaint under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) against Facebook, alleging 22 separate violations of the Act.
According to the Press Release from CIPPIC:
A team of law students, some of whom are dedicated Facebook users, analysed the company’s policies and practices as part of a clinic course this past winter and identified specific practices that appear to violate the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”).
“Social networking online is growing phenomenon,” said Clinic Director Philippa Lawson. “It is proving to be a tremendous tool for community-building and social change, but at the same time, a minefield of privacy invasion. We chose to focus on Facebook because it is the most popular social networking site in Canada and because it appeals to young teens who may not appreciate the risks involved in exposing their personal details online.”
According to an Associated Press article from May 31, 2008:
Facebook has refuted the claims, saying that the complaint ignores key elements of the company’s policy.
“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,” Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly said Friday in an e-mail.
The Privacy Commissioner apparently has up to a year to deliver a report responding to the filing. I note that even the fantastic blog at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner made note of Facebook’s privacy practices back on May 7th.