Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Privacy trumps revenge: commentary in the Montreal Mirror 

Some commentary on privacy protections in "The wrong profile" in the Montreal Mirror:

...Privacy trumps revenge...

"As annoying as that was, Damien Fox, the coordinator of the Electronic Frontier Canada, a group dedicated to protecting online privacy, says Facebook had good reason not to share the messages the impersonator had sent or posted.

“First, they want to save their own skin,” says Fox. “They want to get people using Facebook and attract advertising,” which could be undermined if Facebook seemed keen on handing out user information.

“You have a system that makes sense against the disclosure of private information,” he says. Had Facebook complied with my request to release the information, even though it was information from a fake profile, it would raise the issue of “how privacy is stripped away,” says Fox. Such a disclosure should only be made after a rigorous process that includes a court order, he says.

“It’s about who should have the right to know what, when and where. It’s not a perfect system, and some cases like yours slip through the cracks, but it’s going in the right direction,” he says. “There is a process in place that protects individuals from malicious acts by other individuals.”

Still, what would happen if an impersonator used a profile to issue death threats or harass another user? Fox says it would be up to the recipient to report the harassment to Facebook and the police. In my case, Facebook’s promise to investigate whether the fake Elatrash had done anything illegal was, if true, a problem in itself, says Fox.

“How would they know something is a crime?” he says. “Think of all the ways a joke can be written. Would you really want Facebook to go over everything and report what they think is a crime?”


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