May 17, 2008

The MySpace Indictment Gets Worse -- And Facebook Tells Google to Stuff It

Greetings. Presented for your reading (and my typing) convenience, here are two unrelated "social networking" items combined into one posting.

First, more information has become available regarding the MySpace suicide indictment that I discussed a couple of days ago, and it appears that the risks I outlined then look even worse now.

Many legal experts seem to be generally in agreement that the anti-hacking law invoked in this case was never meant for this kind of situation and is really pushing the prosecutorial discretion envelope. Perhaps even worse, the conspiracy count attempts to prosecute a claimed conspiracy to violate MySpace's Terms of Service (TOS), and the creation of a phony "identity" on that site.

Wait a minute. Is simply violating the often insanely long and complex TOS at a site now a criminal offense, especially as relates to not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when creating an online presence?

If you've never entered false information when signing up at a Web site, please raise your hand ... Hmm, not a lot of hands raised out there.

In this particular case, pretty much any young MySpace user could apparently have rather easily gained access to the profile and related information in question, but the authorities are attempting to prosecute an act of "phony identity" because -- apparently -- they can't find any truly appropriate statute to apply in this tragic harassment suicide case.

Already, I'm seeing news stories with headlines suggesting that using false identities on the Web might get you arrested. Please see my earlier postings for more discussion about why this is potentially such a dangerous situation for law-abiding Web users.

Onward to the next topic very briefly ... Facebook has pulled the plug on their connection to Google's "Friend Connect" service, claiming privacy violations on Google's part. I won't get into the details right now but since I've been asked about this I'll offer just a quick comment today.

As far as I can see, this situation is all about Facebook attempting to protect its own competitive position and essentially nothing whatever to do with privacy. I see no privacy-related problem with Google's handling of "Friend Connect" as relates to Facebook or other sites. It is clear that Facebook loses some element of control when users join "Friend Connect" -- but those users still have appropriate controls over their own privacy settings through the Google service.

If Facebook doesn't want to participate in the Google initiative that's Facebook's choice, but to inappropriately claim a purported privacy problem as a lame excuse undermines discussion and appropriate consideration of real privacy issues generally, and should not be tolerated.

After their "Beacon" fiasco -- a real privacy problem of their own making -- I'd hoped Facebook would be a bit more forthcoming, but apparently they still have a lot to learn.


Posted by Lauren at May 17, 2008 03:53 PM | Permalink
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