Facebook legal skirmish highlights user privacy risks

Facebook deciding to clarify its privacy policy under legal pressure demonstrates the unavoidable risks associated with sharing personal information on a social network.

On Thursday, Facebook notified users of its plans to change its data use policies in settling a class-action lawsuit. The plaintiffs in the complaint argued Facebook had violated their right to control the use of their names and profile pictures by using them to promote advertisers' products and services.

On Monday, a federal judge approved a $20 million fund set up by Facebook to settle the suit. In addition, Facebook was ordered to change its privacy policies to give users a better understanding of, and control over, how their information is used with advertisers.

The revised policies would state that in joining the site, the user is agreeing to "permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your comment or information, without any compensation to you."

The legal skirmish raises the question whether people and businesses can expect Facebook, or any other for-profit social network, to place their privacy above increasing revenue? The answer is no.

[Also see: Facebook report on government data requests a reminder there is no privacy]

"They're going to continue to push the limits on what people allow them to do because that benefits them," IDC analyst Scott Strawn told CSOonline. "And they'll continue to do that until something stops them."

That approach to user privacy, which can lead to infringements, is why Internet companies such as Facebook and Google can provide free services, they say. The strategy also pays for future innovation.

In agreeing to accept those services, people are accepting the risk that how their information is used will change as companies look for more profits. "The technology changes and the use of the data may change, [which] may be problematic in some circumstances at some point in the future," Strawn said. "It's hard to quantify and fully understand what those risks might be."

If users believe a company has crossed the privacy line, then the courts are often the only way to rein in the use of personal data.

Read more about data privacy in CSOonline's Data Privacy section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags applicationssecuritylawsuitsoftwaredata protectionprivacyData Protection | Data PrivacyFacebook

More about FacebookGoogleIDC AustraliaScott Corporation

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Antone Gonsalves

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place