Leg@l IT 2008 — Social Networking and Privacy

David T.S. Fraser, from McInnes Cooper, opened his plenary session by emphasizing the fact that the Internet is about relationships – whether one on one (emails), one to few (IRC, chat) or one to many (blogs, Usenet). In this context, the last few years have seen the rapid growth of social networking sites such as Facebook where the success of these sites depends on the voluntary disclosure of personal information by users. If you have a Facebook account… You probably know how the sharing of personal information is easy and attractive when you are “virtually surrounded” by your friends, colleagues and family – and whoever you choose to “add as a friend”! But then, as Mr Fraser notes, which users do take the time to review the privacy settings of their profil on these social networking sites?

By way of example, Mr Fraser mentions that Facebook and Flickr both allow for the easy online sharing of personal information (Facebook) and pictures (Flickr), but their default privacy settings allow other Internet users to see much, perhaps too much of that information – most users are unaware of how to change these privacy settings.

This is highly problematic Mr Fraser notes… “The information [published on the Internet] is persistent and may no longer be under the user’s control”.

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