Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Wall Street Journal Investigation Proves the Need For the Social Media Privacy Protection Act

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation found that some third party applications on Facebook and MySpace were both obtaining more personal data from the applications' users than they were allegedly allowed. This situation has been going on for a long time so I am not sure why this was such a shock to major media outlets. I have been writing about the need for stronger internal privacy controls by the major social media sites for months because of this issue.

On June 2, 2010, I blogged that Facebook/Disney's Tickets Together application was inherently dangerous. This application enables child molesters to know in advance where our children may be at a particular date and time. After Facebook/Disney launched the application, the New York Times wrote an extremely positive article about the application without fully understanding how the application works. Even after I pointed out how dangerous this application may be to our children, the New York Times dropped the ball and did not investigate this application or others. However, I am glad that the Wall Street Journal did the investigative reporting that was needed to demonstrate that some social media web sites may turn a blind eye to this troubling problem.

Earlier this year, Gawker reported that Google fired an engineer because the engineer allegedly accessed user accounts without authorization. The engineer allegedly accessed the accounts of young children. According to TechCrunch, this is the second time a Google engineer has been fired for unauthorized access of users' accounts. In that same TechCrunch article, it linked to a blog post that alleged that at least two Facebook employees have been fired for accessing its users' data.

I am loathe to articulate the need for further government regulation because the government has a hard time enforcing the laws already on its books and delivering some basic government services. For example, why can't the government settle on a secure and reliable method to vote? Electronic voting without a paper receipt that may be reviewed for a recount is too easily susceptible to hackers.

An easy solution to unauthorized data proliferation is to avoid putting your personal or professional information on a social media site. However, the social media companies want you to continue to "share" so they can monetize your data and users want to continue to "share" so they showcase themselves to others. There is no easy answer here but since the industry continues to fail miserably to enforce its own internal policies and does not have any real incentive to protect its users' data it may be time for Congress to act. Therefore, until the major social media companies demonstrate a real initiative to protect its users' personal data I strongly advocate for the passage of the Social Media Privacy Protection Act.

To learn how to protect and monetize your social media profile you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2010 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.