In 2009, EPIC, a privacy group, filed a privacy complaint about Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This prompted the FTC to announce last month an agreement where Facebook must create a comprehensive privacy program, delete content after termination of a user account, and do comprehensive privacy audits every two years. If Facebook fails to comply, it faces millions of dollars in fines.
Unfortunately, after obtaining privacy sanctions against Facebook, EPIC announced today that it considered the agreement a “FAIL” and launched a campaign to demand additional sanctions on Facebook.
I visited EPIC’s site to learn more about their new demands. EPIC demands the FTC to “prevent Facebook from secretly tracking users across the web.” That sounds scary, but EPIC never explains what it means by “secret tracking.” I found only one reference to tracking, secret or otherwise, buried in a 2010 EPIC complaint about Facebook’s cookies. So I can only assume that by “secret tracking” EPIC means Facebook reading their cookies when users visit other sites. But it wasn’t until I thought more about these Facebook cookies that I realized why EPIC hid their explanation of “secret tracking.”Read More
We’re giving a polite “golf clap” for The Federal Trade Commission and Facebook on today’s announcement of a voluntary agreement designed to protect user privacy while allowing Facebook – and an entire ecosystem of online service providers – to continue innovating.
First off, it’s almost always better to get private industry and federal regulators to reach a mutual agreement on resolving complaints. Far too often, the kneejerk response from regulators and elected officials is to call for new legislation. And those new laws usually just restrain innovation by legitimate companies, while those intent on bad behavior ignore new laws just as they ignored the old laws.
It this case, the FTC and Facebook tackled a list of complaints that were raised by a small but media-savvy industry of professional privacy advocates.
In general, the 800 million users around the globe who joined Facebook do so in order to make their information more visible to public and to their network of friends.Read More
Flashy newspaper headlines drive clicks but they can also mislead readers.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project just released a study of teens’ use of social networks. It was a joint project with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), who featured the study at their annual conference in Washington. Like all of Pew’s work, this study provides a deeply nuanced view of the subject, breaking down behaviors and identifying emerging trends.
At the FOSI conference yesterday, I thanked Pew for helping to describe what they call the “emotional climate” for teens using social networking. But the media wants to write headlines about “emotional climate change” when it comes to meanness among teens – and then blame it on the Internet.Read More
Halloween is fast approaching and while that makes it a good time to reflect on the treats that internet cookies enable, privacy advocates seem fixated on the bad actors allegedly using cookies to play tricks. The most recent example of this occurred yesterday morning at a press event on the collection of information through “cookies” and companies who read their cookies when you visit other webpages.
After two hours of discussion, there were examples of harms from data breaches, theft of data, and misuse of public information, all examples of tricks from bad actors. But nowhere in the discussion were there examples of harm from cookies.
The more I learn about cookies, the more I see them as a treat — not a a trick. Cookies are benign, have been around for years, and are beneficial to my Internet experience.Read More
When you interact with others online, is it better to be anonymous or to use your real name? Today, a diversity of social network services gives you the choice between anonymity or real names. But some advocates for free expression want to eliminate that choice.
For those who want to know who their friends are, we have services like Facebook, and for those who’d prefer to remain anonymous when ranting or organizing, we have networks like Twitter. Choices like these allow users, advertisers, political activists, and entrepreneurs to mix and match online services that were unimaginable a decade ago.Read More
You remember that song, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Missouri school teachers have been asking the state legislature the same question after it passed a law requiring schools to prevent teachers and students from being friends on any social network that is not dedicated for educational purposes.
But last Friday, the Missouri legislature saw the error of their ways, voted to repeal the law, and decided to let teachers be Facebook friends with their students.Read More
Dance clubs provide a fantastic venue for both musicians and club-goers. Musicians can show off new works and find new fans, while dancers groove to the music and make new friends.
It’s more than just fun. A new study from the University of Maryland’s Center for Digital Innovation, Technology & Strategy (DIGITS) shows that today’s digital “dance clubs” can also generate jobs and some serious economic activity. DIGITS analyzed Facebook’s apps platform and found that “the Facebook App Economy created 235,644 jobs, adding a value of $15.71 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.”
So how is Facebook’s apps platform like a dance club?Read More
Today we published our September 2011 “iAWFUL” list of bad Internet laws. The worst offenders are new burdens on small businesses using the Internet, plus a Puerto Rico bill restricting how 17-year-olds can use social networking.
Our Internet Advocates’ Watchlist For Ugly Laws (yep, iAWFUL is an acronym) is the 10 items of state and federal legislation that pose the greatest threat to the Internet and e-commerce.Read More