Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There is nothing private about going online

In September of 2008, Christine Stoddard, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada gave a speech about the use of social networking sites and their implications in regards to personal privacy and employee rights. If you work in Canada and have a social networking profile, you should read her speech.

Though I agree with many points in the speech and found some of the stories enlightening, I have long believed that if you have used a password to enter a site--as opposed to a Google search which leads you to information--you have violated a person's privacy. I also feel that people who use the sites to troll for information about people in this manner should be suspended from the site. I feel that more openness, as the commissioner describes is best:
If you do monitor the sites employees are looking at and how much time they spend there, you should tell them.
The simple work-around for my suggestion is when your friends hi-jack your personal information from the site and post it on a freely available site on the Internet. Good luck getting the ISP that hosted the site to give you the information to take the poster to court. There are protections for stealing people's personal property, or attempting to extort from people by taking their personal information, but we don't seem to have figured out yet how this will work online--possibly because we don't recognize it as personal space.

I do feel that it violates my charter rights to demand that I stop associating with certain (adult) people on a social networking site, or to track any information about my religious or political affiliations, or deny me a place online to "hang out" with friends. In case you aren't sure what those are--or you're not a Canadian--lo,
  • freedom of conscience and religion;
  • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  • freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  • freedom of association. 
I think we need to start thinking of the Internet in terms of a space, a forum, for assembly, as opposed to an amorphous "out there" that seems to have nothing to do with our lives or freedoms.

Oh, and don't be a jackass. At least not where people can see you.

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