21 September, 2009

Facebook legal twists

Today's article on cnet news tells about the outcome of a year-old class lawsuit filed against Facebook by 20 discontented users in the U.S. (filed August 2008).

Basically, the lawsuit centers around FB's advertising engine: "Beacon". Which --before it was shut down-- collected information from user-profiles, user surfing habits, user shopping habits and generally monitored FB-users' surfing-activities while logged-in to FB.

( I used keyword-blockers and/or router URL filtering to block this collector engine )

Not that it was difficult to block this monitor-service with simple browser plugins, but then again, if you don't know WHAT is monitoring you, or HOW it is monitoring you, how can you stop it?

The plaintiffs argued that Beacon was gathering information illegally and hidden from users. But the thing is, it was announced and described in Facebook's Statement of Rights and Policies when launched a couple of years ago. I can even remember it being mentioned in the early Privacy Policy.

Anyway, the lawsuit got settled, and Beacon is history. However, Beacon has evolved over the last two years, into what is now known as Facebook Connect. Which is FB's centralized authorization system, developed in collaboration with other major service-providers online, to provide a SSO (Single Sign-On) solution. Thus providing Facebook, and it's partners the web-habits of users using the SSO-system by collecting pagehit statistics collectively through all sites joined in the collaboration effort on Facebook Connect.

I just don't think people read statements, policies or user-agreements anymore. Everybody just expects everyone (including web-companies and the like) to abide to 'normal' society standards and rules with regards to privacy.

But the Internet is a completely open and public community network, you cannot expect to post personal information out there, and NOT expect anyone or anything to misuse this information to the fullest extent. And Facebook is by no means an exception, it is a PUBLIC social-port! Then again, it IS set-up to prevent people from seeing information you don't want certain people to see. But there are ways of obtaining this information without even visiting facebook.

You'd be surprised at how easy it actually is to get a decent amount of personal data via a search engine like Google...

In my opinion, if you're dumb enough to upload photography, personal information, and other sensitive data and/or information online, and *NOT* limit access policies on the content, you're garantueed a world of hurt and/or annoyances.

Good Luck Dumbasses...


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